As we learn more and more about human behaviour and psychology, these new understandings have an undeniable impact on the way we work, and particularly the way we communicate at work.
The evidence is pretty clear and quite obvious to most people familiar with healthy work culture: people and teammates work more productively and more healthily in office environments where good communication practices are used.
There are a range of associated benefits of good workplace communication includes lower employee turnover rates, higher client retention rates, fewer employee sick days, higher employee job satisfaction, greater performance outcomes, and overall a more successful business.
To work out exactly how good communication practices produce these benefits, let’s look at the facts in more detail. Let’s split the discussion between the themes of workplace productivity and employee well-being, so that we can get a holistic picture of the importance of workplace communication from both perspectives: the employer, and the employee.
Good Communication Boosts Productivity
In many ways, the importance of workplace communication for productivity can be understood intuitively. Good communication results in team members having clearer ideas about their tasks and roles and in a very straightforward way, this means that employees can complete work more efficiently. However, the importance of workplace communication runs deeper than this.
Good workplace communication practices lead to a more efficient exchange of information between team members and streamlined work processes. For example, when everyone in the team is aware of new ideas and developments that other team members have already made, there is far less chance that time will be wasted through parallel work. Healthy communication channels facilitate the constant sharing of information and dynamic collaboration. Ultimately, this leads to higher levels of efficiency for each team member and the team as a whole.
A Deloitte report commissioned by Google produced results from a variety of Australian workplaces to support this. It found that, when employees collaborate directly, they work 15% faster on average and in collaborative environments 73% produced higher quality work, 60% were more innovative, and 56% were more satisfied with their work.
Sometimes, splitting work into teams can create information bubbles and this can lead to inefficiency, as different teams waste time working on the same thing. New findings made by one working group may indirectly help another working group completing a separate task. Because of this, research suggests that the best organisational structures use networks of teams. This involves local communication networks for individual teams, as well as higher-level networks for communicating between teams. Notably, the purpose of these channels is not to exchange as much information as possible but to exchange level-appropriate information in an efficient and organised way.
Having concrete communication channels makes leadership and the workflow of your business a lot easier. It is vital that team members feel they are in touch with higher decision-makers, giving them greater confidence that what they are doing is right, and boosting personal ownership, recognition and accountability over their work. If leaders can communicate quickly and frequently with team members, these connection channels are strengthened. Of course, this channel must flow both ways. If team members can pass ideas and information back up the chain, leaders can make more effective decisions which may influence work practices down the chain.
Ultimately, good communication practices contribute directly to the commercial performance of a business. The Deloitte report also found that companies with a collaborative communication strategy were twice as likely to outgrow their competitors and more likely to increase their profit, than companies who do not.
On the other hand, there is strong evidence to suggest that poor communication can have severe implications for performance and profitability. A Holmes Report from 2011 surveyed 400 companies with 100,000 employees in the US and UK, finding that the average cost of poor communication per company each year was USD$62.4 million.
Communication and Employee Well-Being
Good communication not only contributes directly to the efficiency of workflows—it also creates a healthier work environment. In turn, this has many flow-on effects for higher productivity. If employee well-being is low, collaboration breaks down, individual productivity decreases, and employee turnover is higher.
The Harvard Business Review has reported staggering results from surveys on negative communication in the workplace. It found that, of workers who had experienced negative communication, 48% intentionally decreased their work effort, 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work, and 47% spent more time away from work as a result.
Further, the Work Institute’s 2017 Retention Report found that of employees leaving a company, 6% did so because of a negative work environment and a further 9% did so because of poor well-being. 11% also reported moving on because they were unhappy with management behaviour. The evidence is clear: positive, collaborative communication yields higher employee well-being and higher business performance.
How to Improve Workplace Communication
Here are some key steps to take to improve workplace communication.
As we’ve seen above, the benefits of collaborative work are hard to go past. Working in smaller groups, team members can more easily exchange ideas and information and work more productively.
Create Networks Between Teams
Don’t let teams form their own bubbles. Allow them to work independently, but make sure they share work via dedicated channels, too.
Use Varied Communication Channels
Not all information needs to be delivered in the same way. First of all, face-to-face communication is important to create trust and security in a working relationship. If face-to-face meetings are not possible, using video conferencing is preferable to phone and email. To facilitate this, Christie Spaces has Zoom-integrated televisions in all of our meeting rooms.
But, also, it’s important that written communication is sometimes used. This is the case when specific and detailed information needs to be accessible for reference. It’s recommended to use multiple communication channels for best results.
Displaying empathy is particularly important for managers. Information and directives need to be passed clearly and efficiently down the workplace hierarchy, but also in an empathetic way. Doing so will improve trust, encourage two-way information exchange, and increase employee well-being.
Allow for Socialising
Encouraging workplace socialisation has several benefits. First of all, it promotes better personal relationships between team members, which can lead to higher levels of collaboration. But it will also improve employee well-being and reduce stress. If team members enjoy going to work, they are more likely to take fewer days off and be more productive when they are in the office.
Does your business need to rethink its communication procedures? Do you need a highly connected workspace? Ask the Christie Spaces team how our collaborative office spaces can help you and your team today!