The drastic shift to remote work on account of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced employees and managers to adapt their communication strategies. New research (Shockley et al., 2021) examines how communication quality, communication frequency, and communication expectations affect both employee performance and wellbeing.
COMMUNICATION: QUALITY VERSUS QUANTITY
The researchers surveyed 471 US employees who transitioned from primarily in-person work to 100% remote work at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants completed daily surveys over the course of 4 weeks.
Results showed that more frequent communication was associated with higher levels of employee performance. In fact, this relationship became exponentially stronger as the frequency of communication increased. Results also showed that increased communication frequency was related to employee burnout. However, the overall strength of these relationships was somewhat weak.
The researchers also considered daily communication quality, or the extent to which employees receive key information needed to do their job. They found that communication quality related to higher employee performance and lower levels of burnout. Importantly, the relationship between communication quality and performance was stronger than the above mentioned relationship between communication frequency and performance.
Finally, results indicated that when supervisors set clear communication expectations, it was associated with higher employee performance and lower levels of employee burnout.
The results of this study can inform multiple managerial practices. First, managers should be aware that high quality communication can have benefits for both individual performance and wellbeing. On the other hand, high frequency communication has a weaker relationship with employee performance and could even lead to employee burnout. Managers should work to implement procedures that facilitate the efficient transfer of key information to employees rather than focusing on the frequency with which employees and managers communicate.
Finally, setting communication expectations was beneficial for both performance and wellbeing. The researchers suggest that managers should hold discussions with employees about how communication strategies can meet the individual needs of the employee and the supervisor.
Shockley, K. M., Allen, T. D., Dodd, H., & Waiwood, A. M. (2021). Remote worker communication during COVID-19: The role of quantity, quality, and supervisor expectation-setting. Journal of Applied Psychology, 106(10), 1466–1482.