Virtual Work Relationships Harder to Build Compared to Traditional Interactions, Professor Says

A new study has suggested that workers who communicate with their colleagues through applications like Zoom are far less effective at building relationships compared to when communication is done face to face.

Researchers have found that workers surveyed reported a sharp deterioration in their work relationships following an increase in videoconferencing amid the COVID pandemic. Looking at these findings in greater detail, we spoke to one of the authors behind this study, Nancy R. Buchan, an associate professor of international business at the University of South Carolina.

Betty Boop collapses on Broadway near 49th Street as handlers work to raise the deflated helium balloon during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, Thursday, Nov. 27, 1986.  Betty Boop, the last balloon in the parade, could not finish the parade.  (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)

Sputnik: Can you tell us more about your research and the impact Zoom has had on relationship building among workers?

Nancy: We’ve been studying communication patterns and how people interact across cultures for about 15 years, and typically this has been done face to face, although more and more it’s been done virtually. With the pandemic, there was a radical shift to people having virtual meetings and virtual communications, so we wanted to study how would that influence these communication patterns, and then the things that flow out of that, the consequences from that, the relationship building, and then various team outcomes.

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