Is Informal Communication Being Lost With the Shift to Remote Workforces?

Remote work has clearly halted the in-office grapevine that has existed since the beginning of time. Some managers may say good riddance to the employee grapevine with the shift to 100% remote work arrangements due to Covid-19. However, before we celebrate the departure of the grapevine, consider the positive impacts of informal communication within an organization.

Many of us are familiar with the Gallup employee engagement question, “Do you have a best friend at work?” Gallup states, “Our research has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work, and the amount of effort employees expend in their job. For example, women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged (63 percent) compared with the women who say otherwise (29 percent).” Why We Need Best Friends at Work By Annamarie Mann

Even though trying to manage the rumor-mill within an organization can be frustrating for senior leadership, there are many positive aspects of informal communications among employees. Having the ability to vent and sometimes get a different perspective from a coworker can relieve stress. It also allows employees to digest management’s formal communication messages. Potentially most arguably, it creates an opportunity for employees to develop strong positive working relationships with coworkers – leading to having a best friend at work.

The new normal is leading us toward a more consistent remote arrangement as the way we will do business, even post-pandemic, we should ask ourselves how do we get in front of facilitating informal communication within our organization?

GitLab is a 1200+ employee organization with a 100 percent remote workforce since its inception. GitLab has an intentional approach to informal communication. Some of their tried and tested strategies include:

  • Opportunity for before the meeting banter casual conversation
  • Encourage the use of emojis to convey emotions
  • Social calls with anyone in the company are encouraged
  • Scheduling coffee chats with coworkers, as well as, sign up to be randomly assigned a coffee chat

Additional ways employers are encouraging informal communication is virtual happy hours, being open to interruptions of pets, kids, and family members during meetings, as well as scheduled meetings with no agenda.

Ask your employees for input on how to enhance informal communication within your organization. Be open to the grapevine so that you can encourage healthy information sharing within your organization. Employers Council can help; contact us with questions.