With healthcare experts encouraging social distancing as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19, we are likely to see a spike in team members working from home rather than heading into the office. And that means greater usage of alternative forms of communication. It’s easy to assume most team members, especially younger ones, would rather just text or email when they need to connect with their manager. The data tells a different story.
EcSell Institute has surveyed 900 team members* and asked them about their communication preferences, specifically, how they want to connect with their manager when they have a question. Our findings show that the vast majority of team members want to speak with their manager directly, face-to-face or via phone, rather than text or email. (Tweet this.)Importantly, these communication preferences vary by gender of the team member. Males are more likely to prefer a face-to-face interaction with their manager, while the majority of female team members prefer to ask questions by telephone.
We have also found variation in communication preferences by age. We found that 46% of millennial team members (age 37 or younger) prefer contacting their manager by telephone when they have a question. And the same is true for Generation X team members (ages 38 to 52). However, the majority of Baby Boomers (age 53 or older) prefer face-to-face interactions. This may make working remotely especially tough on the older members of teams.
This data can help leaders plan for the coming weeks with travel restrictions and increased work-from-home situations.
Here are a few key takeaways:
Be mindful. Physical distancing does not mean that interpersonal interactions are any less important than before. In fact, they may be even more critical as people feel more isolated. Managers should plan to interact differently, but not interact less.
Don't rely on emails/texts. Keep in mind that emails and texts are not the best way to keep in touch with team members when they need help. Emails are especially ineffective with younger team members. Likewise, texts do not work well with older team members.
Show your face. For many team members, face-to-face interactions are the preferred way to communicate. When this is not possible, video conferencing is an excellent way to engage visually while employing social distancing practices. And for many team members, phone calls without video can be just as effective as face-to-face communication.
Finally, leaders should ask team members about their individual communication preferences. Not everyone falls neatly into their demographic, so simply asking how they want to communicate is essential.
*Based on results from our Coaching Effect Survey.
If you liked this blog, check out this one all about leading through uncertain times.
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