internal comms / 5 minute read

Why now is the time to bring back face-to-face communication

Written by Alex Cottom

13 October 2021

We’re closing in on two years since working from home became normal practice. That’s 24 months missing those small chats over coffee at work. And it’s not without an impact. Many of us have reported feeling isolated or lonely; a total 44% of UK workers have experienced loneliness while working from home, according to a recent study from Totaljobs.

In a recent paper, the UK Government said the reduction of face-to-face communication throughout the COVID-19 pandemic had contributed to people of all ages experiencing loneliness and social isolation.

It said: “It is likely that as the pandemic continues, we can expect more people of all ages to experience loneliness and social isolation due to the impact of local tier restrictions, national restrictions and social distancing measures. As well as the reduction in face-to-face opportunities to socialise, connect with family, neighbours and friends and to take part in physical activity and everyday cultural and faith experiences.”

Now, as the world begins to open back up, and people begin to become comfortable with the idea of in-person events again, it’s time to re-evaluate the power of face-to-face communication and consider reintroducing it to your comms arsenal.

What is face-to-face communication?

It’s been defined as ‘communication that takes place in the physical presence of another person’ or ‘interaction between individuals co-present in the same physical location’. You may well know it as that five-minute chat with colleagues while waiting for the coffee to brew. Or that small chat you have after a project brief.

What are the benefits of in-person comms?

We’ve lived more or less without it for the last two years. So, what have been missing out on? Well, crystal-clear messaging for one. Among the many benefits of face-to-face communication, clarity sits at the top of the list. Without a clear message, our audience becomes disengaged and can ultimately be lost. Being clear is paramount when it comes to delivering successful internal comms.

According to The New York Times, 93% of communication occurs nonverbally, through body language and tone of voice. Only the remaining 7% is communicated through words. That means the likelihood of your message being misread when received via digital media, such as on Teams or an email, is high.

Face-to-face communication offers a direct route to crystal-clear communication. There’s little room for error. “While employees can use instant messaging platforms to ask each other quick questions,” says journalist Sophia Wichtowska, “it is important to be aware that much of what is said is lost, and misunderstandings could easily happen without talking things through in person.”

Increased trust in leadership

For leaders, face-to-face communication can inspire trust. Leadership and communications expert David Grossman says face-to-face interaction, “allows you to share your strategy, explain it clearly, and answer questions honestly.” He explains that employees, “see how actions align with words, which enhances leaders’ credibility and trust.”

Feedback is immediate

Unlike digital communication, where the recipient of a message could choose to wait hours to respond, it’s uncommon and almost unheard of for someone not to give you an immediate response face-to-face. If someone needs to think about their response, they’ll verbalise it, and not leave you hanging. But in digital communications, that silence is all too common.

One of the perks of face-to-face internal comms is receiving that immediate feedback. Is your company going in the right direction with its latest eco-friendly scheme? You’ll know just by looking at the audience’s body language and facial expressions.

Time to revitalise

With these benefits in mind, and a growing relaxation around in-person events, it may be time for you to look at reintroducing face-to-face comms back into your workplace.

But how do we bring it back? Simply put, you can generate excitement and anticipation around in-person events by offering incentives. Events like our very own Summer Conference, or our schedule of reset activities, which includes board BBQs, yoga session, and in other fun confidence-building activities, have built on this idea of giving back.

If there is an offer or exchange in play, it can drive away or distract from the initial anxiety people may be facing when coming back into physical spaces with others. While it doesn’t eradicate the fear entirely, a yoga session or a team-building activity could alleviate the stresses of returning to the office just long enough for people to realise both the physical and mental benefits of in-person activity. The real face time.

So, is it time you started to make more use of in-person comms again? Have a look at DRPG’s Summer Conference, where we brought the entire business back together to celebrate another year of hard work.

You may also want to consider revitalising your workforce with some great reset activities. We’re proven experts when it comes to producing internal comms, for both our own company and other businesses across the industry. See more of our work here