As the pandemic continues, people in the business world have adjusted the way they correspond in a way that acknowledges the collective angst associated with COVID-19. Gone are exclamation points to indicate enthusiasm and emojis to show light-heartedness. In their place are heartfelt words that reflect the danger and upheaval the pandemic has wrought all over the world.
Public relations experts such as Benjamin Schmerler in New York say that any communication today should at least acknowledge the “collective vulnerability that people feel.” He adds that because so many employees are working from home, the ability to communicate casually in the office isn’t possible, so written communications such as e-mail, texts, instant messaging, and even Slack messages should include a personal touch.
Gretchen McCulloch, the author of Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language,explains that COVID-19 has created a shared reality that workplace communication reflects. Likewise, Prof. Naomi Baron says that people are more deliberate when they write, which leads to text that divulges more personal and truthful remarks. This phenomenon is exacerbated by the fact that many people are not working at the office, so sharing personal touches—such as a blooming backyard garden—has become gracious rather than extraneous.
This in no way means the writer should wax eloquent or be verbose, says Brian Metcalf, the founder of a digital marketing agency. He tells employees to remove jargon and to message concisely—no one wants to wade through lengthy messages. This fundamental principle of business communication remains in effect today.
One element all the experts agree upon is to omit blatant enthusiasm. Grinning emojis should be replaced with a thumbs-up to acknowledge receipt of a message. Carefree smiley faces and cat pictures show a level of tone-deafness unacceptable in the current situation.
The bottom line is to show sensitivity without oversharing the personal. At the same time, to pretend that it’s life and business as usual can make the recipient of a message feel disrespected.
- Why do experts suggest it’s important to mention health and wellness in professional messages today?
- What are some softening phrases you might use at the beginning of an e-mail or text message that are not clichéd?
- Which emojis should you avoid in professional communication, and why?