For professionals across the US, day-to-day tasks in 2022 don’t look so different from those in previous years: writing emails, creating documents, building spreadsheets, and attending (virtual) meetings. But a fundamental shift in how we get that work done lurks underneath the familiar responsibilities and quarterly goals—a shift that puts efficient digital communication at the center.
Knowledge workers are under pressure. These skilled employees, who work at the intersection of technology and information, are paid to “think for a living.” As a result, they must work across formats, across platforms, and across the company to effectively communicate their ideas. Grammarly partnered with The Harris Poll to survey 251 business leaders and 1,001 knowledge workers in the US to better understand what’s at stake in professional communication today. And the research shows there’s room for improvement.
According to this research, knowledge workers spend approximately twenty hours a week on written communication—half of a forty-hour workweek. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, as 93% of business leaders surveyed already agree that “communication is the backbone of business.” But the challenge remains: Most of us have not yet adapted our assumptions around communication to the new, remote way of doing business—and it shows.
Is it burnout, or is it ineffective communication?
If you’re among the 86% of workers experiencing communication issues at work (especially around responsiveness and clarity), don’t be surprised if you’re also experiencing symptoms of low morale, low engagement, and burnout.
Almost half of surveyed knowledge workers experience miscommunication at least daily or more, which—when you’re spending half your day on written communication—can lead to a lot of long-term frustration.
The past year (and this survey) offers further proof of this point when we uncovered that:
- 50% of knowledge workers believe their “team has struggled with communicating effectively over the last year.”
- 59% of knowledge workers are concerned about effective communication with remote or hybrid working models in the future.
- 38% of knowledge workers believe the written communication they receive from others is not very effective.
- 90% of knowledge workers agree that poor communication negatively impacts their team or company’s productivity, morale, and growth.
These are some of the common challenges knowledge workers face that impact the effectiveness of their communication:
Reflecting on the everyday work experience, it’s easy to see how ineffective communication piles up to create more tangible issues. Time wasted while deciphering messages, pondering over the most appropriate platform for information-sharing, or simply waiting for someone to respond can easily turn into frustration. This frustration can feed the increased feelings of stress, overwhelm, and low morale many workplaces are fielding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Effectiveness as a lever of communication confidence
Avoiding stress isn’t the only benefit of becoming a more effective communicator. Increasing effectiveness can augment your sense of satisfaction and confidence in your workplace interactions—a critically important baseline when we spend as much as half our workweek communicating.
Knowledge workers in this study rated themselves as very confident in their communication with specific groups. For example, 75% said they’re very confident with their boss, 71% are very confident with their team, and 67% with other teams. But the pervasiveness of confidence among knowledge workers falls when it comes to third parties and executive leaders. In fact, more knowledge workers indicate they’re very confident in their communication with professionals outside the organization (60% very confident) than they are with senior leaders within the company (55% very confident).
While these numbers are within ten percentage points of each other, this downward slope of confidence is something we should correct. Because communicating effectively, no matter whom you’re communicating with, breeds confidence.
In the study, we saw it this way: Confidence has an amplifying effect. Knowledge workers who are confident in their own written communication skills are more likely to perceive the written communication they receive from others to be effective compared to those who are not confident in their own skills: 66% of confident writers perceive others’ communication to be effective, but only 10% of unconfident writers perceive others’ communication to be effective.
By improving your effectiveness as a communicator, you can feel more confident in your written and verbal communications. This newfound confidence will then bring greater ease in sharing ideas, more rewarding connections with your coworkers, and better traction to your professional efforts.
5 new rules for building confidence in your communication
In years past, communicating confidently might have referred to the sense of presence that comes with in-person interaction: strong body language, eye contact, polished public speaking, and a firm handshake. But in a digital ecosystem, confidence takes on an intangible quality. And it comes with new rules.
Here are five new rules for bridging the digital divide by communicating more effectively—and increasing your confidence in the process:
1 Practice good communication hygiene
Tone, time of day, medium—all of these choices affect the message received. How you say something is just as important as what you say. Prioritize “good hygiene” by taking communication styles into account, self-editing before you hit send, and minding when and where you send messages.
2 Look out for unspoken expectations
Every workplace has a unique style of communication, whether it’s established intentionally or by accident. Find out if those expectations are captured anywhere. If not, ask for clear guidelines for communication so you know where, when, and how workplace communication should take place.
3 Aim to layer tech instead of adding to your tech
Instead of adding new platforms or mediums, opt for communication add-ons that integrate into or layer onto your company’s existing tools and systems. They’re easier to adopt across the company and won’t add complexity. Focus on tech and tools that empower you, enhance your workflows, enable you to work more efficiently, and deliver insights to help you grow over time.
4 Put soft skills on your to-develop list
In a hybrid work environment that lacks consistent nonverbal communication cues, soft skills like relationship building, collaboration, and flexibility have a big impact on how your contributions are received. Be proactive about developing your soft skills and getting more confident with digital communication.
5 Pave a path for newcomers
If your company is increasingly bringing on globalized, location-agnostic roles, welcome that boost of diverse and cross-cultural teams with heightened sensitivity and inclusiveness. This practice will help newcomers unfamiliar with your company culture to feel comfortable communicating with the wider team, whether they’re new to the workplace or just new to your workplace.
Here’s to being a confident communicator in 2022
As remote work leads the world to embrace asynchronous and virtual communication platforms, knowledge workers have a new primary skill to hone: confident communication in written and verbal formats to all kinds of stakeholders. Take steps today to hone these skills and increase your confidence in talking to everyone from your teammate to your CEO. Now’s the time—it will pay off with every correspondence to come.