“What I miss most is eavesdropping”

Replacing the powerful benefits of office overhearing

Many years ago, on my daily train commute, I ended up sitting opposite a man who was obviously a seasoned traveller. It was clear he needed to travel by train, because his drinking habits would have made driving unsafe!

Can in hand and with more by his side, he held forth at length, telling me things in a loud whisper about the other travellers in the carriage. He knew something about every one of our travelling companions – people that I’d never met before, but he somehow knew things about them all.

After 20 minutes of non-stop talk, he asked me if I knew how he knew all these things. I said that I didn’t! 

He pulled off his beanie and pointed to his large ears. ‘It’s because I keep these WIDE open.” And pointing to his mouth, he said, “And I keep this tight shut”!

How does all this relate to this post? The link is eavesdropping. Or to give it a more acceptable name: overhearing.

A client said to me last week,
“What I miss most when I’m working from home, is learning by eavesdropping on my colleagues’ conversations”.

That really struck me. How true it is.

Internal messaging is a critical part of effective business. And so much of that happens by simply being present in the vicinity of conversations. All this is lost when many are working from home, and potentially lost if strict social distancing is in place within the workplace.


Marketing personnel, in particular, mine essential information by overhearing the coalface experiences of their sales colleagues. The feedback that customers and prospects give in conversation. These valuable insights can’t afford to be lost.

So how do we recreate the power of eavesdropping in (brace yourself for the cliché) ‘the new normal’?

Here are some simple tips to maintain strong internal messaging and effective sharing of experiences and knowledge within teams.

  • Establish morning Zoom sessions for all ‘office mates’, and ask everyone to join whether or not they are in the office. Encourage all colleagues to share any thoughts or experiences, and allow free-flow conversation for 15-20 minutes.
  • Establish a monthly internal newsletter to share achievements across the team and relevant experiences or insights gained; encourage colleagues to submit things for the newsletter. This may sometimes repeat discussion points from Zoom conversations, but helps to consolidate the learning, and may give an opportunity to clarify the relevant actions from the insights gleaned.
  • As a possible alternative to the above, establish an online team whiteboard (there are quite a few available) and encourage team members to add any little thoughts or experiences to it.
  • As a broader cultural thing, encourage a mindset within your team of flagging up when a colleague has said something significant or insightful, and encouraging them to share it more widely across the team, by whatever means.

There will be many more ways that internal eavesdropping can be recreated when colleagues are not in close proximity anymore. But whatever the methods used, it’s important to recognise the problem:

The powerful benefits of learning from everyday eavesdropping could be lost for the foreseeable future, and they need to be made up somehow.


At Zing, we’re all passionate about effective messaging, both externally to customers and internally to colleagues.

Make contact if you’d like support in developing effective internal communication in a more distanced world.

Talk to us
Unit A1, Mochdre Enterprise Park
Newtown, SY16 4LE

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