Communications between Benelux and China business teams in times of travel restrictions: not business as usual!
February 2022 – Businesses across China and the Benelux have reached out to each other more frequently since the start of the corona pandemic, but seem little ingenious in intensifying and broadening personal relationships or deepening feelings of team spirit.
Severe travel restrictions are bad for internal communications
That is the basic conclusion of a recent communications survey developed by intercultural training agency The China Trainers – facilitated by the Shanghai Benelux Chamber of Commerce with support from the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Respondents practically unanimously acknowledged that the severe travel restrictions have had an adverse knock-on effect on contact maintenance, operations and relationship building within company teams across borders. In fact, 64% of repliers state to know less of what is going on at the other side than before. And, an even larger 82% of respondents say they can see their team members struggling with providing adequate feedback as a direct result of sole digital interaction.
More video conferencing
Yet respondents also say that even though they find it harder now than before to cooperate and offer support to colleagues from afar, 45% of them continue interaction in the same way as before and have not implemented any new measures to further facilitate communication processes. To mitigate the absence of face-to-face contact 78% of respondents say they have increased the number of contact moments, video conferencing being the most popular tool, but only 45% have built in room to offer empathy to team members who need support. Only 9% mentioned career opportunities as a motivating component.
Little add-ons or extras are icing on the cake
Approximately 70% of respondents say they believe continued travel restrictions are likely to pose further challenges to overall group spirit. Asked whether online team-building activities are used to enliven mutual camaraderie, only two companies affirmed to have undertaken steps in that direction. One of which was an online cross border celebration of Chinese New Year. That was a surprising outcome as social online activities are fairly easy to organise and preciously help to pep up overall feelings of well-being, a sense of shared accomplishment and of mutual trust and harmony.
Risky to continue business as usual
In conclusion, it appears that most businesses are acutely aware of the problems directly caused by the strict travel measurements. The general approach to tackling the nonexistence of any live, face-to-face contact seems continues to be to increase the number of contact moments, rather than to put extra effort into compensating for this loss. Indeed, it would appear that businesses are keeping their operations afloat, more or less along the same trajectory as before.
Sole digital communication can nonetheless, easily result in losing both meaningful personal interaction and mutual understanding. In a relationship-oriented society as China, investing in personal relationships is nevertheless a work in process – it never stops, especially now. Maintenance of relationships via mere digital communication routes has, by any account, become far harder than before. Therefore, assuming that existing relationships will not deteriorate during the pandemic may be a tricky strategy.
Travel restrictions call for creative online solutions
Travel to and from China will continue to be difficult in the foreseeable future. Perhaps it is time for businesses to change their tack slightly by starting to invest more in the deepening of personal business relations with an aim to counter any possible loss of trust, and also to keep tabs on what is actually happening on the work floor. By adjusting their approach, businesses can enhance a vivid work environment in which people will feel better connected with each other across borders. After all, getting the business done depends on people and investing in solid interpersonal communications makes all the difference when it comes to motivating and supporting them.
This article was published firstly (Feb, 28th 2022) on the website of the Benelux Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. With support from the Belgian Chinese Chamber of Commerce