In a time where office spaces are being redesigned to take away isolated offices and create open floor plans, this is a clear example of how the hierarchy in the workplace may seem to be dwindling. Open floor plans are said to create more collaboration and support easy communication. This new development has said to encourage Millennials and Gen Zs’ desire of wanting to feel engaged with their managers and other team members.

However, new research is showing that productivity has declined in these open spaces; people wear headphones for concentration, leading to further isolation. Remote work arrangements are also on the rise – a nice idea for flexibility, unfortunately perpetuating lack of face-to-face communication. If the use of mobile phones has helped create a generation that has difficulty with direct talking, this evolution of office space may be perpetuating the problem.

Millennials and Gen Z have grown up so connected to their peers yet lack so many skills when it comes to social etiquette. Behind a screen one can express many emotions, post anything they desire and communicate with a multitude of people at a time. Though in that same instance, these age groups are used to speaking in sound bites and their lack of having meaningful conversations has left them at a disservice both in their personal lives and in the workplace.

Millennials and Gen Z are used to writing a tweet in less than 280 characters, updating their Facebook status to only two sentences, or breaking up with their significant other by ghosting and blocking them. At one point all conversations and obstacles were handled face-to-face and involved real human interaction. Today, these age groups rely on email, text or direct message to avoid anything distressing.

Wondering what to Do? Here are five essential pieces of advice that can help:

1. Pull out the air pods and headphones. When colleagues see that you are not dialed in to your own devices, it shows you are willing to listen and are open to having a conversation. Headphones signal one is not in the mood or willing to talk at that moment. Not wearing headphones means you can hear others and are available for a proper response without making other people feel like they are interrupting you. Even if you need them for concentration, take them out when someone approaches!

2. Practice negotiating small things in everyday life to practice for the workplace. Communication is much more than simply talking. Most people can get intimidated by negotiating because they think it could turn into an argument when really it should be approached as a conversation with give and take. In the workplace it is important to learn how to both effectively speak and listen. Negotiation may not be easy but it can become less gruesome the more often we practice. One method is acknowledging the other person’s perspective and emphasizing how your ideas could benefit them. Also pay close attention to the tone and language you use in everyday life and assess what communication styles will help a negotiation proceed.

3. Restrain from sending the quick email and talk to your co-worker!  A personal connection you share with someone in the workplace can be essential to your success.  By approaching someone in person and not just behind a screen makes the real you shine through. This allows for genuine connection which is mandatory for building trust.  In addition, tone can also be misleading in the words and punctuation we use over text and email, so speaking in person gives other team members a clearer understanding of your intent.

4. Don’t confuse negotiation for confrontation. When most people hear they are being called in for a meeting they immediately think it could be about something bad. Prepare yourself for what one may be asking of you, what points you will make in the discussion, and what the best possible outcomes may be. In most conversations lot of progress can transpire which leads to new projects and assignments.

5. Check in with yourself about where you are getting triggered. There could be someone who you have a hard time communicating with at work. Instead of having instant reactions to what is being asked of you or find yourself going to a negative state of mind, regularly check in with yourself throughout the day. That person may consciously or unconsciously remind you or someone in your life who triggers you. Try to separate your personal feelings from the task at hand. Put your attention towards focusing on what is required of you at work instead of being side tracked by your personal feelings towards a colleague.

Practice, practice, practice!  There is no such thing as ‘mastery’ when it comes to interpersonal communication. We are all human and bring our whole selves and complex personalities to the workplace.  #putdownthephonejustforamoment