UKG Workforce Institute Study Reveals How Employees Have Navigated Post-Pandemic Workplace Communication

Could the U.S. workforce have come out of COVID-19 relatively unscathed? 
businesswoman gestures as she facilitates a staff meeting while working from home. She is talking with her colleagues during a video conference.

According to The UKG Workforce Institute's latest study, business etiquette — which encompasses topics such as engaging new colleagues, sending clear and proofread written documents, arriving on time for meetings, and adhering to deadlines — has remained mostly intact. 
In particular, although prior research showed that Generation Z (Gen Z) employees were not prepared for today’s business world, the cohort that entered the workforce during and just after the pandemic is confident about their communication competency. From our study, Gen Z employees perceive that their workplace communication skills are generally on par with their older colleagues, with more than half of Gen Z respondents saying they respond to work-related messages within one hour on a business day. 
The switch to remote and hybrid work facilitated culturally competent communication as well, with 43% of all respondents in our study agreeing that they have collaborated with more international colleagues since the pandemic, and 55% saying that they always or often consider individual time zones when scheduling meetings. 

Ditch the Videoconferences, Embrace In-Person Meetings 

Nevertheless, hybrid and asynchronous work is not without its problems. For instance, our research found that the videoconference model adopted by nearly all knowledge workers is ripe for disruption. Only 2% of respondents say they prefer to use videoconference over other communication tools, and one-quarter believe it’s more difficult to speak up in meetings held by videoconference. 

Furthermore, more than one-third of respondents (32%) said they find it more difficult to manage complex problems or issues when managers and colleagues aren’t working at the same time. 

Given these attitudes, it isn’t entirely surprising that a majority of employees across generations see value in working in the office — even if that truth goes against conventional wisdom. Sixty percent of our survey respondents agreed that working in an office makes recognition and advancement in an organization easier, and 43% rely on working in the office for networking opportunities. 

Most employees also want to have potentially difficult conversations in person, with 50% of respondents preferring to resolve a conflict by going to the person’s office or setting up an in-person meeting. Meanwhile, 68% of employees want to receive critical feedback from a manager in person. 

Navigating the New Ways of Working 

In summary, while today’s employees across the generational spectrum are managing distributed work proficiently, they also see substantial advantages to interacting in person. Not only do leaders need to continue carving out time for face-to-face engagement, but given the hurdles associated with videoconferencing, we should also aim to increase the effectiveness of remote work with a more immersive and satisfactory means of live collaboration. 
To learn more about these research findings, and how to navigate the post-pandemic world of work, download our white paper, “Adapting to the New Normal.”