Diagnosing Digital Anxiety: How COVID-19 is affecting work-from-home employees

One of the trademarks of the Quester experience is that we’re really good at communication – we have employees across the country, and we study language, so we’ve always fostered a strong communication culture. But the pandemic hit us the same way it did companies across the globe. Our communication rules changed as our employees worked from home exclusively:  our platform interaction rules shifted, we had to navigate a new video meeting culture (cameras on? Off?), and our lunches, casual get-togethers and watercooler moments became morning online coffee talks and Zoom trivia meetings. (Hyper-competitive Zoom trivia meetings. Ask us sometime why we’re still arguing about fast food chicken sandwiches.)

At the same time, another trademark of the Quester experience is that we love a big idea. We’re led by a visionary – so when Tim Hoskins met Erica Dhawan, an exciting collaboration was born. In addition to being a 21st century collaboration expert, an entrepreneur, and an award-winning keynote speaker, Erica is the author of the new book, Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust & Connection No Matter the Distance. In advance of her book, Quester was honored to partner with Erica to study the current state of digital communication in the professional world.

In total, we talked to 3804 professionals across two large-scale projects and conducted a deep dive into the landscape of the digital communication environment today. You can find the full report from the initial project here. Some highlights that fascinated us:

  • Poor digital communication truly takes a toll. 70% have experienced some form of poor digital communication (monthly or more), costing four hours per week, on average.
  • The worst communication is no communication. Lack of communication was rated as the biggest deal-breaker – which entirely makes sense for people working at home or in a hybrid environment that, by its nature, can breed disconnection.
  • Digital Anxiety is a real thing – and it’s an even bigger issue for managers, parents and Gen Z. There is some intuitive understanding about why digital anxiety is prevalent among managers and parents, but we were a little surprised about Gen Z given that they are digital natives. Upon further digging, we found that digital anxiety is not only more prevalent among these younger workers but also more emotional. Combined with the normal stresses of starting a career, Gen Z now must navigate digital communication in the professional world – and it’s really stressful.
  • Workers overall aren’t in a huge rush to go back to the office. 42% want a flexible home/office hybrid model. But parents are more likely than others to want to go back to the office – perhaps to re-establish work-life boundaries. (Which makes sense to me both as a researcher and as a mom of four.)

 AND, as a bonus …

Because we explored communication preferences deeply – and because we have a linguistic segmentation approach we were able to leverage – we created segments of digital communication preferences. These identify professionals based on their personal communication needs in a work environment, as well as what they need from a manager. This information can help people understand not only their own needs and skills and tendencies, but also watchouts for the way they interact with other segment styles. I like to think of them almost like professional love languages (which makes some people at Quester roll their eyes, but those people are still chippy about fast-food sandwiches, so that’s fine?).

We’ll use this information to not only help people understand their own communication skills and potential areas for improvement, but in the future work with Erica to help teams communicate more effectively.

You can click here to take the quiz and find your personalized communication-style report.

What we know is that, even after a dramatic shift in the world of digital communication, it’s going to continue to evolve. Erica’s book is a great resource for any teams navigating the digital communication environment, and we’re proud to support her efforts to increase understanding and help people develop trust, value and collaboration in the workplace.


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