Is the new office jargon a sign that hybrid workers feel disconnected?

A recent national survey reveals the most annoying workplace phrases - and what they reveal about hybrid working

According to a recent national survey by leading research agency Perspectus Global and commissioned by The Access Group, 91 per cent of those polled agree that working has changed the way we talk and communicate with our colleagues in the workplace.

Out of the 1,000 workers surveyed, 69 per cent of respondents felt the impact of the pandemic and subsequent trend towards hybrid working has increased the amount of specialist language and terminology being used in the workplace.

Phrases like “touch base” and “keep me in the loop” were recognised as some of the most annoying to come out of the era of home and hybrid working according to the new research, and are perhaps an indication that remote and hybrid workers are experiencing anxiety around effective communication with colleagues.

As more employees have been working from home and away from the office since March 2020, the terms that have irritated them the most show there is a feeling of disconnect among employees, even though we are still “seeing” colleagues every day, albeit online.

Of those surveyed, “touch base” was deemed the most annoying phrase (35 per cent) at work, followed closely by “keep me in the loop” (31 per cent), while “ping an email over” was identified as the third most irritating phrase (29 per cent) in a post-pandemic workplace.

Others on the list include “get the ball rolling”, “you’re on mute” and “on the same page”.

The full list of annoying office phrases highlighted in the survey are as follows:

  1. Touch base (35 per cent)
  2. Keep me in the loop (31 per cent)
  3. Ping an email over (29 per cent)
  4. Get the ball rolling (24 per cent)
  5.  You’re on mute (23 per cent)
  6. On the same page (22 per cent)
  7. Moving the goalposts (19 per cent)
  8. Blue sky thinking (18 per cent)
  9. Face-to-face (18 per cent)
  10. Let’s take this offline (17 per cent)

Our language is being shaped by our technological environment

Claire Scott, Chief People Officer at The Access Group said many of these phrases reflect how most employees are still working remotely from their colleagues, with a high number of meetings continuing to take place online.

She said: “It is interesting how the top three most annoying phrases can be linked to people feeling disconnected from their colleagues and wanting to know more about what people are working on.

“The phrases we are hearing used a lot more in the last two years show that an increase in remote and hybrid working makes it difficult for workers to communicate and shows a desire for people wanting to constantly know what work is being done.”

Can technology help a hybrid workforce feel more connected?

It is an issue that affects employers and staff alike, from an employer’s perspective effective communication is key to a happy and productive workforce. From a worker’s perspective feeling connected and part of a team is important for individual productivity, feeling valued, career progression and overall wellbeing.

Aiming to strike the right balance in hybrid working has employers posing a brand new HR question – how do I ensure my workforce feels connected at work?  At Access, we are seeing many businesses opting to invest in people management software designed specifically to support workforces and ensure teams and individuals can connect.

Can hybrid or remote working hinder career progression and access to training and development?

The survey revealed that over half of the workers polled (54 per cent) felt that face-to-face communication between workers and colleagues would continue to decline over the next five years.

Longer term issues in communication can have a potential knock-on effect on career progression and training, some remote workers may feel they could be overlooked in promotions and training opportunities, so how can employers ensure an equal opportunities workplace?

Some businesses are choosing to take their training online with digital learning solutions such as eLearning courses and Gamified Learning Apps which means workers can learn and progress at their own pace and are supported throughout their training.

At Access, our digital learning solutions support performance and development while ensuring industry compliance. Learning platforms integrate with Zoom or Teams and schedule and manage learning events, so there is no reason for employees to be suffering from FOMO at work!

Is the new workplace jargon here to stay?

The new wave of workplace phrases is admittedly more than a little annoying, but perhaps a small price to pay for staying ‘in the loop’.

Veronika Koller, a professor of discourse studies at Lancaster University, agreed overused buzzwords and phrases in the workplace are nothing new, but they have changed because the “processes we go through at work have changed”.

She said: “The processes are now online and hybrid, so everything that used to be communicated face-to-face is now reduced and there is a fear of missing out in the workplace. People are now always wanting to be informed, or wanting someone to get back to them, and worry that if you are not face-to-face you miss out on conversations.

“The phrases highlighted by the survey are about information flow and what you are missing, and therefore link to a lack of those informal channels of communication that have slipped away in the workplace or become greatly reduced. You don’t bump into colleagues in the office or grab a coffee or lunch together as much anymore, so you miss out on the small talk and the relationship building with colleagues, but also the bits of information you would pick up for your work, so you are sending more emails about it.

For those of us asking how do I stop FOMO in the workplace?’ or “Why do I always feel left out at work?’ the answer according to Professor Koller is simple…

“You have to make more of an effort in online communication as there are fewer opportunities for communication now. Emails have to be sent, meetings have to be pre-arranged and you are getting more chasing emails, whereas before you would just walk over to someone in the office to chase up something.”

A recent report by The Access Group, Achieving everyday wins in your people communications, highlighted how different words can have a positive or negative effect on the well-being of your employees, and how the way firms speak to their employees can affect business and their productivity.

It showed that while technology is now being used more than ever before by businesses, it should be used effectively to get the most out of your workforce and look after their personal well-being as the ways in which we communicate keep evolving and changing.

Dom Walbanke

Dom Walbanke

Dom is a feature writer for Growth Business and Small Business, focused on matters concerning start-ups and scale-ups. He has also been published in the Independent, FourFourTwo magazine and various lifestyle...