Having good workplace communication is one out of the many important aspects of any employee in order to be successful.

Now that employees are returning to the office either full-time or on a hybrid work arrangement, we’ll need to adjust our work and communication styles for the physical workplace setting. This also means that we'll be interacting with our colleagues and bosses in person once again.

Good communication is important for returning to work to maintain strong working relationships with your colleagues as well as to eliminate issues and misunderstandings. Having good communication with your colleagues can help boost your workplace productivity and improve your working relationships with others.

Some people may feel excited about returning to the office as they get to catch up more with their colleagues and friends. However, others may face some challenges in finding a safe and comfortable space at work, during this transition. Hence, it is critical that we keep an open mind and adapt to communicating with others after two years of video conferencing.

return to workplace effective communication tips
return to workplace effective communication tips

how to communicate better when you’re back in the office

Social distancing measures have kept you physically apart from your colleagues and friends for the past few months or years. It’s normal to feel awkward or anxious to be in close proximity to people who you haven't met in person or had a chance to work with yet. Returning to the office after working from home for so long is not going to be easy for some people.

So, what are the easy ways you can improve communication at work?

Here are some effective communication strategies you can adopt so that you can be better prepared for your return to work.

1. offer to reschedule meetings when necessary

As a result of the pandemic, we all have no choice but to spend a lot of time working from home. So we rarely have unscheduled meetings as most meetings are already booked in our calendars. Should the need for an unscheduled meeting arise, we would usually be informed beforehand.

Don’t be alarmed if impromptu meetings happen in the office! Since everyone is already working in the same space, some discussions or meetings could just take place without advance notice, so make sure that you’re always prepared to participate and contribute. Sometimes your colleague or boss calls for you because they want to align work priorities with you. They might also be seeking your creative inputs for an impromptu brainstorming session.

However, know that you don’t always have to say yes to all these unplanned meetings. After all, you do have work to do. One example of demonstrating good communication skills is to offer rescheduling meetings, so that you can focus on finishing your tasks first. Offering the help to reschedule the meeting displays courtesy and your commitment, which your colleagues will appreciate.

2. continue the good habits you’ve developed when working from home

Most of us have developed new habits when working from home, such as having an early morning routine, exercising, eating healthy or preparing a daily schedule to help us focus better at work. You should continue to practise such good habits even when you return to the office. For example, you can meal-prep all your lunches for the week so that you can keep to your healthy diet and avoid heading out to crowded spaces.

Being in the office doesn’t always just have to be about work either. You can still take short breaks or a walk around the area for a quick recharge in the middle of the day.

3. introduce yourself to new faces you see in the office

If you’ve joined a new employer during the lockdown, going to the office may very well feel like it’s your first day at work. This feeling may also be experienced by existing employees who have not been back in the office for more than a year, as they are also expecting (and excited) to see some new faces. Some companies have also taken the opportunity to renovate the office to accommodate the needs of a hybrid workforce. This could all be unfamiliar yet exciting at the same time.

Once you have settled down in the office, introduce yourself to the people around you and those you meet in the pantry and hallways. Let them know who you are, which team you work with and ask them for similar information. It helps to put faces to names, which would make it easier for you to collaborate with others in the future.

If you are an existing employee, use the time to catch up with your colleagues and make sure that new employees feel welcomed and integrated into the office culture. You’ll never know what you’ll get from having these conversations - and you may find some new lunch buddies who enjoy the same kind of food as you!

4. find a quiet space to focus

Some of us may experience sensory overload when we return to the office. The noises from typing, ringing phones and chatter, as well as the sights of being surrounded by people, can be a little overwhelming. The office work environment is drastically different from our dedicated workspace at home where we have the whole place to ourselves. Being in the office can be distracting and we might not be able to focus as well as we did back home.

Every office should have a quiet space where you can go to and do some work. You can also escape to a little quiet and quaint cafe nearby, but just make sure that your teammates and bosses know where you are and how they can find you.

 5. give feedback to your employer

Since everyone will be going back to the office, you may face some new challenges at work. For example, you may have some thoughts about flexible start and end times to avoid the peak hour crowds. Or you may want to set up new reporting processes that accommodate your colleagues who are working from home.

Be sure to share your thoughts with your manager and work with them to streamline processes that would drive productivity in your team. Your initiative to help improve processes could demonstrate your commitment to your job and indicate that you are ready for more responsibilities and a promotion.

improve your relationship with your colleagues

Take this chance to strengthen your relationships with your colleagues and build healthy communications. Fostering good internal communication within your team members and across other departments is essential to your career growth. It will also help you develop a good work relationship with your co-workers.

Whether you are starting a new role or returning to the office, this will be an exciting time to connect or reconnect with them. Book a time to have lunch together or invite them for a drink after work so that you can socialise outside of the office and get to know each other better. You could also start by engaging in a small talk with your colleagues too. Team bonding events or engaging in casual conversations with one another can also help ensure better workplace communication.

flexible work from home arrangements
flexible work from home arrangements

If you’re still not comfortable being in the same enclosed space with your colleagues and can perform your duties at home, then you should raise your concerns to your manager. You can speak with your manager about having some flexibility to work from home. The good news is, many organisations are either piloting or already offering hybrid work arrangements to their employees. However, if your employer does not offer these benefits that you seek, then perhaps it’s time for a change.

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