Workplace communication statistics (2021)
Workplace communication statistics show that 86% of employees and executives cite the lack of effective collaboration and communication as the main causes for workplace failures.
On the other hand, teams who communicate effectively may increase their productivity by as much as 25%.
Here are all the interesting facts, figures, and statistics about workplace communication that will help you better grasp why effective workplace communication is important in helping businesses thrive.
Statistics on why effective communication is important in the workplace
Proper communication within a business brings several benefits to the said business.
Studies, reports, and research show effective team communication positively affects employee productivity, retention, and trust.
Effective communication increases productivity
According to a McKinsey report, well-connected teams see a productivity increase of 20-25%.
This increase affects task work — CMSWire reports that 97% of employees believe communication impacts their task efficacy on a daily basis.
Moreover, a report by Think Talent shows that employees working in organizations with effective communication plans — ones that manage to minimize the silo effect and centralize communication — are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers.
Effective communication increases retention
According to the Bit blog, effective team communication, and the steps that lead to it, help businesses retain their top talent.
This employee retention increases 4.5 times, compared to businesses that lack effective communication in the workplace.
Effective communication facilitates trust
As showcased by Lexicon, a high percentage of more than 80% of Americans believe employee communication is crucial for developing trust with employers.
An article in the International Journal of Business and Management titled “Communication, Commitment, and Trust: Exploring the Triad” also connects trust and effective communication: Trust and commitment do not just happen; they are forged and maintained through effective communication.”. This finding was based on previous studies and data from an original survey that included 244 employees.
On the other hand, the lack of open and honest communication that facilitates trust tends to hurt employee morale — at least according to a third of employees who responded to one Accountemps survey.
Statistics on the cost of poor communication at the workplace
Miscommunication tends to have serious repercussions for a business.
Communication expert, Debra Hamilton, names the price of miscommunication for small businesses in her article “Top ten email blunders that cost companies money”. According to her, miscommunication can cost a company of 100 employees (or less) $420,000 per year.
As expected, a larger sample shows an even more striking money loss.
According to David Grossman’s report, “The cost of poor communications” which included 400 large companies and 100,00 employees, the cost of communication barriers that arise in the workplace stands at $62.4 million per year, per company.
A report by Holmes, the voice of the global PR industry, shows that the cost of poor communication has by now hit a whopping $37 billion in total.
This money loss caused by ineffective communication may be even higher, if we take some indirect factors into account.
According to research, 28% of employees point at poor communication as the reason for breached deadlines. Another research by Salesforce that included not only employees, but corporate executives and educators as well, shows that 86% of them believe ineffective communication is the underlying reason for workplace failures.
A study by the Economist Intelligence Unit further illustrates how poor workplace communication can hurt the success of a workplace — it may result in:
- Failure to complete projects — in 44% of the cases;
- Low employee morale — in 31% of the cases;
- Missed performance goals — in 25% of the cases;
- Lost sales — in 18% of the cases.
The best solution to poor communication seems to be learning how to identify and overcome the most common communication barriers at the workplace.
Business languages for international teams
Verbal and written communication is one of the most important communication types anywhere — including the workplace. And, to communicate in written or verbal form, businesses will need to choose an appropriate business language.
Now, when all teammates have the same mother tongue, the question of an appropriate business language for team communication is not a challenge.
But, when working in a multicultural team, it’s important you choose a language in which all teammates feel comfortable communicating on a daily basis.
One survey reported by the Harvard Business School shows 89% of employees serve on at least one global team. Moreover, 62% have colleagues from three or more cultures.
So, knowing at least one international business language is becoming a necessity.
According to Alexika, here are the 10 business languages of the world, based on the percentage of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and Gross Domestic Product in $US billions. You’ll also find the number of people who speak these languages worldwide, according to Ethnologue:
|Language||GDP in $US Billions||% of world GDP||Number of worldwide speakers|
Other important business languages only narrowly missing out on a spot on this list are Italian, Polish, Turkish, Indonesian, and Korean.
Specific countries have other business languages they currently focus on, or plan to focus on in the future.
Business languages in the US
Official statistics show 78.1% of the US population speak English as their mother tongue. Perhaps surprisingly, English is NOT the official language in the US, as the United States has no official language. It is, however, the de facto national language.
American students — the future of the US workforce — tend to favor Spanish when selecting a foreign language to learn. For most students in K-12 public schools and college and university students, Spanish is the first language they opt for.
Here’s how these numbers look, in more detail.
Top 5 foreign languages in K-12 public schools:
- Spanish with a share of over 72.06%;
- French with a share of 14.08%;
- German with a share of 4.43%;
- Latin with a share of 2.30%;
- Japanese with a share of 0.82%.
Top 5 foreign languages for college and university students:
- Spanish with a share of 50.2%;
- French with a share of 12.4%;
- American Sign Language 7.4%;
- German 5.7%;
- Japanese with a share of 4.9%.
Business languages in the UK
Official statistics show 98% of the UK population speak English as their mother tongue. Unsurprisingly, the official language is also English.
However, the UK business economy requires knowledge of other languages as well.
The British Council and their report, “Languages for the Future” which focuses on the languages the UK as a prime English speaking-country should adopt, shows the top 10 most important international business languages that are not English.
The factors considered for this report were:
- Economic factors — with the #1 factor being Current UK exports;
- Non-market factors — with the #1 factor being Diplomatic and security priorities;
- Balancing factors — with the #1 factor being Levels of English proficiency in other countries.
In line with these factors, the top 10 languages in the UK are:
When it comes to the languages spoken by the UK population aged 18-34 — the population of people likely to be engaged in work with a multicultural team — the top 5 include:
However, the listed languages are each spoken only by less than 20% of the UK population.
Statistics on workplace communication during Covid-19 times
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a sizable impact on the global workplace.
The number of people working from home skyrocketed, while proper training and the right digital solutions became an essential component in facilitating remote team communication and collaboration.
Employees wanted information about the pandemic
During the peaks of the Covid-19 outbreak, employees wanted to find and share vital information about the pandemic. However, the explosion of data on Social Media made it challenging to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information on one hand, and real and fake news on the other hand.
According to a Statista report about finding reliable Covid-19 sources, 74% of people worldwide were worried there was a lot of false information circulating about the virus.
Moreover, 45% found it difficult to find reliable and trustworthy information about the virus and its effects.
Many employees wanted answers about proper business conduct during these trying times from their employers.
Perceptyx reports that when employees were extremely content with communications about the company’s response to coronavirus, a whopping 96% of them trusted their employers put employee safety first. However, when such communication was poor, only 30% believed this.
Remote work communication seemed like a challenge
Work-from-home communication initially worried remote workers who were used to interacting with their teams in person. However, the actual importance and severity of this once-prominent remote work challenge seem to be decreasing, even compared to pre-Covid times.
According to a Buffer’s State of Remote Work report from 2018., collaboration and/or communication used to represent one of the biggest struggles of working from home. Back then, 21% of respondents highlighted remote collaborating and/or communicating as a crucial remote work challenge.
However, people seem to be getting better at handling this challenge.
A Statista report on the biggest struggles with working remotely, shows that 16% of people had difficulties with collaboration and communication in 2021., as opposed to 2020., when 20% of people had the same difficulties.
Proper training helped improve remote communication
For people who are working from home for the first time, training seems to be the key that unlocks success. Some areas where proper training brings better results are productivity, time management, work-life balance, and communication.
Namely, a survey by TalentLMS that covered 1,000 respondents shows that remote employees tend to rate themselves with high performance scores (4 or 5) more frequently if they’ve had training.
In concrete numbers, this amounts to 65% of employees who’ve had communication training, compared to 52% of those who didn’t.
Digital solutions had the power to make or break a work-from-home arrangement
According to a Gartner snap poll focused on making remote work successful during the pandemic, 54% of HR leaders cite poor technology and/or remote work infrastructure as the primary barrier to effective remote work.
Forbes reports that the biggest such obstacle for 35% of people was weak Internet. It prevented people from using their online solutions and performing their work.
Despite the occasional Internet issues, the previously-mentioned Workplace Insight study has found that 85% of employers believe their employees have the technology, tools, and resources they need for productive remote work during an extended period.
One World Economic Forum survey shows that employees mostly agree with this — at least in China. Out of 2,000 respondents, about 1,100 (55%) believe their employers provided them with the necessary technology, tools, and resources to work remotely.
Remote work has positively impacted productivity
Several studies show employees are more productive when working from home, compared to office-based employees.
In numbers, home-based employees tend to:
- procrastinate 10 minutes less;
- work 1.4 days per month more;
- be 47% more productive.
There is even more good news for people worried about the impact of working from home on employee productivity. Namely, Workplace Insight has found only 15% of companies from Great Britain and Western Europe say working from home has had a clear negative effect on employee productivity.
For a more concrete example, we can take a Statista study that focused on UK marketing organizations and the work-life balance of their employees during the coronavirus pandemic:
- This study found that 73% of respondents believed they were more efficient when working from home;
- For better or for worse, 68% believed they worked more hours while working from home.
Working from home is becoming the new normal
One of the most striking impacts of Covid-19 on businesses was the increase in the number of people working remotely.
According to a Gallup report about “How Coronavirus Will Change the ‘Next Normal’ Workplace”, the US alone saw a jump from 31% to 62% of people working remotely. And, this increase happened in just three weeks.
One Stanford research by Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom shows 42% of the US workforce was working remotely in 2020.
Moreover, a Gartner survey covering company leaders shows leaders are entertaining the thought of making remote work the new normal after the Covid pandemic:
- 82% of them plan to allow their employees to work remotely at least part-time;
- 47% of them plan to allow their employees to work remotely full-time.
The employees share this positive sentiment towards remote work.
One 2020. Statista research detailing the attitudes on remote work from employees in companies with digital output shows that 86% of them view remote work as the “future of work”.
Moreover, a whopping 90% would recommend a remote work arrangement to a friend.
Employees are now satisfied with their remote communication arrangements
The previously-mentioned Statista report about the employee attitude on remote work shows that employees who work remotely are generally satisfied with such an arrangement:
- A large majority is satisfied with remote work possibilities. 87% of employees declared they are “satisfied with tools and processes that enable remote team communication”. This likely prompted 84% of employees to declare they can accomplish all of their tasks remotely.
- A large majority is satisfied with remote team leadership. 86% of employees declared their leadership teams provide “agency and autonomy while working remotely”. Moreover, 84% of employees declared their leadership “understands what it takes to operate remotely”.
A Gallup report even shows that as much as 54% of US workers would now leave their current job positions to pursue positions in companies that allow working from home.
Moreover, Global Workplace Analytics shows that over 33% of employees would take a pay cut for the option to work from home.
🎓 To learn how best to communicate with teammates while working remotely, check out our detailed guide (+ infographic) about the subject — How to improve team communication when working from home.
Statistics on how people prefer to communicate at the workplace
Workplace communication preferences depend on whether you are a manager or a regular employee.
However, the expectations of managers and employees do align, when it comes to what they want to gain from communication in the workplace.
Managers dislike giving feedback
One Interact survey that involved 2,058 US adults found that 69% of managers simply feel uncomfortable when communicating with employees face-to-face.
This percentage is partly because 37% of the said managers feel uncomfortable giving direct feedback in business communication situations. This is especially true if the feedback they need to deliver is negative.
Perhaps as a result of this reluctance to provide feedback, a small percentage of only 18% of employees have their communication skills evaluated within their performance reviews.
Moreover, one Gallup estimate shows that only 50% of employees know what their managers expect from them.
Employees like receiving feedback
Despite managers’ reluctance to provide it, feedback is a crucial prerequisite for an employee’s success — as explained by employees themselves.
The Harvard Business Review cites that 72% of employees feel their performance would improve if their managers were to provide corrective — sometimes also dubbed as “negative” — feedback.
Interestingly, employees actually prefer corrective feedback to praise or recognition by a 14% difference — with a 57% to 43% ratio.
Moreover, If the corrective feedback is delivered appropriately, the original 72% rise to a whopping 92% of respondents who believe negative feedback is an effective way to improve one’s performance.
Communicating feedback is not just a factor for improving work performance, but also for improving employee engagement. A study by Officevibe shows that 43% of highly engaged individuals receive feedback at least once per week, in contrast with only 18% of low-engaged individuals.
In line with that, a report by Gallup shows engaged employees are 27% more likely to show an excellent work performance.
According to another Gallup report, other factors that determine employees engagement — and stem from proper communication and feedback — include:
- Feeling clear about roles and responsibilities;
- Having access to the resources needed to perform the job;
- Having a common mission in mind.
Having high engagement also helps companies save money. After all, a report by Conference Board shows that disengaged employees can cost their companies $450 billion per year — in wages, retraining time, and pure loss of profit.
So, it’s high time reluctant managers start providing employee feedback on a regular basis.
Employees want access to business-related information — but, businesses don’t always provide it
A report by Trade Press Services shows that as much as 85% of employees claim they are most motivated when regularly updated about company news and information.
And, according to Gatehouse, as much as 64% of businesses cite their business strategies, values, and purpose as crucial information they want to communicate.
These high percentages have a strong basis. Namely, CEB/Gartner reports that more informed employees tend to outperform their less-informed peers by a whopping 77%.
Sadly, the same Trade Press Services report also shows that as much as 74% of employees believe they are missing out on important news and information in their companies.
Moreover, IBM indicates 72% of employees don’t fully understand their companies’ business strategies.
Goals are another area where employees seem to lack the information they need.
GoVitru reports that only 5.9% of organizations communicate goals on a daily basis — even though clear business goals are a crucial component in directing employee’s everyday efforts.
Furthermore, only a share of 23% of executives claims their companies are efficient at aligning employees’ goals with corporate purposes. As a result, a majority of employees simply lack direction in work — or, a share of 57%, to be exact.
The underlying problem to this lack of understanding and information flow may, once again, lie in communication problems. But, this time, the problem seems to be the lack of proper communication plans.
Namely, one Workforce report shows that 60% of companies lack a long-term strategy or vision for their internal communication (IC) processes.
Companies that do have internal communication plans may lack the resources they need to evaluate and improve them as they progress with work. Or, the problem may lie in the lack of proper plan structure and organization.
Namely, one VMA Group Study shows that 46% of its respondents say their communication progress is NOT researched or measured with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and other relevant metrics.
Moreover, Gatehouse reports that 21% of worldwide businesses admit they do NOT have a formal plan for internal communication — this percentage rises to 31% in the US.
🎓 To learn how to create a successful internal communication plan for your team, check out our guide to Planning internal communication for your team, where you’ll also find useful IC plan templates.
Employers are looking for employees with great communication skills
The effects of great communication skills are undeniable — 73% of employers want employees with strong written communication skills, as found by the National Association of Colleges and Employees.
The Association of American Colleges and Universities cites additional communication skills employers look for in prospective hires — as much as 93% of employers expect a demonstrated capacity to:
- Think critically;
- Communicate clearly;
- Solve complex problems.
Interestingly, possessing the right communication skills may be even more important for a workplace than possessing the right experience. Namely, one GMAC Corporate Recruiters survey shows that 69% of recruiters feel confident about hiring business school graduates who have the right communication skills, despite their lack of experience.
It’s not just the employees that need to possess these skills. Companies whose leaders possess effective communication skills have a 47% higher return to shareholders during a five-year period.
Everyone want to be heard
Another point people have strong feelings about in business communication is active listening.
Namely, people who feel heard by co-workers and superiors report feeling 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.
However, studies show that people spend 75% of the time while listening to others distracted, preoccupied, or forgetful.
Luckily, research at the University of Minnesota shows that students who take listening training improve their ability to understand what is said by 40%. In line with that, some form of listening training can prove useful at the workplace as well.
People like using collaboration tools
Workplace communication and collaboration are interwoven concepts. The purpose of effective communication at the workplace is to improve collaboration. And, you can’t collaborate if you don’t communicate.
One Queens University of Charlotte infographic shows that 75% of employers view collaboration and teamwork as important aspects of a successful business.
This percentage is well-justified — the Institute for Corporate Productivity and Babson’s College Professor Rob Cross surveyed 1,100 American companies to find that companies who promote collaborative work are 5 times more likely to report a high performance.
However, 39% of employees around the world believe that people in their organizations simply don’t collaborate enough.
This is where collaboration tools seem to come in.
One McKinsey report indicates that 80% of businesses use social collaboration tools to enhance their business processes.
Once again, this devotion to social collaboration tools seems more than justified. Go Remotely reports that using online collaboration tools, but also participating in digital workplaces, helps increase productivity by 20-30%.
To put these percentages into dollars, Forrester reports that companies with 100 employees (50 knowledge workers who earn $60/h and 50 frontline workers who earn $40/h) report seeing a $247,500 increase in productivity benefits, just from using collaboration tools.
The benefits of the right collaboration tools transcend even this initial profit number. A Wrike survey has found that 85% of collaborative software users consider themselves to be happy employees. This brings the benefits of collaborative tools full circle — the University of Oxford reports that happy employees are 13% more productive.
Different generations prefer different types of workplace communication
The question of whether your team consists of members of Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X, and/or Baby Boomers, also has an impact on communication preferences in the workplace.
How Generation Z likes to communicate at the workplace
Generation Z, i.e. the generation of people born after 1997, consists of digital natives.
But, their preference for online communication at home (with a share of 65%) does not fully translate to the workplace.
Namely, while at work, members of Generation Z choose face-to-face communication, if available.
How Millennials like to communicate at the workplace
Millennials, the generation of people born between 1981 and 1996, tend to be digital natives as well.
In line with that, they often choose to avoid answering phone calls, because they deem phone calls “time-consuming”.
However, unlike members of Generation Z, they also tend to avoid face-to-face communication. Instead, they choose:
- messaging platforms, in 55% of the cases;
- email, in 28% of the cases.
How Generation X likes to communicate at the workplace
Generation X, the generation of people born between 1965 and 1980, was the first to have contact with digital technology and communication solutions, such as emails, from their youth.
In line with that, they enjoy the ease and convenience of sending and receiving brief messages, as opposed to lengthy ones.
How Baby Boomers like to communicate at the workplace
Baby Boomers, the generation of people born between 1946 and 1965, grew up during the telephone era.
However, various reports show that Baby Boomers highlight face-to-face interactions as their primary method of workplace communication.
Emails are also a favorite communication channel — as much as 93% of Baby Boomers use email on an everyday basis.
Statistics on the communication devices people use at the workplace
CMSWire reports that 85% of employees use more than one communication device to communicate at work — as much as 32% use three or more devices because they value flexibility.
When it comes to the actual device use, people tend to communicate via:
- Computers — in 44% of the cases;
- Smartphones — in 36% of the cases;
- Tablets — in 16% of the cases;
- Desktop phones — in 5% of the cases.
If they’re receiving voicemails, 82% claim they prefer the voicemails to come as text messages — because text is easier to scan for the right information.
Business communication tools are also high in use — people tend to prefer them to in-person meetings. Instead, they rely on:
- Emails — in 48% of the cases;
- Mobile phones — in 20% of the cases;
- Desk phones — in 10% of the cases;
- Text messaging — in 8% of the cases;
- Online meetings — in 8% of the cases.
Businesses tend to use 3 communication tools, on average. Globally speaking, these averages differ only slightly, according to a world-encompassing Statista report:
- North America — 3.1 communication tools;
- Asia Pacific — 3.42 communication tools;
- Europe, Middle East, and Africa — 3.56 communication tools.
Regardless of the number of communication tools used, the popularity of the mere concept is undeniable. 44% of employees want to use their business communication tools more.
Statistics on email use at the workplace
The previously mentioned Interact survey shows that 16% of managers prefer email interactions because they feel uncomfortable communicating face-to-face.
To support these claims, a 2020. report by Project shows that 39% of businesses primarily use email for employee communication. Emails are also reported to be the primary method of communication for as much as 74% of adults.
However, emails can be a tricky channel of communication.
The large number of emails — a Statista report shows that 319.6 billion emails get sent out and received every day, worldwide — tends to discourage workplace communication, rather than facilitate it. For example, only 34.1% of emails in North America actually get opened, which implies the abundance of email comes with a lower interest to interact.
This disinterest may also be justified by the lack of emails’ true relevance — as much as 62% of emails in an average inbox are deemed unimportant.
Furthermore, the emails that do get opened — 70% of emails we chose to open will get opened within 6 seconds upon receipt — still represent a productivity killer.
Namely, it takes 64 seconds to refocus attention to previous priority work, after being interrupted by an email.
According to Clockify’s report on the time spent on emails as a recurring task, we spend 2.5 hours per day communicating via email. This translates to 625 hours per year, per employee (if we count the work year as having 50 work weeks and 2 vacation weeks).
Another way emails cause a productivity lag involves pieces of important information we simply miss. Namely, Project’s report shows that 63% of people have missed an important piece of information because it went to a colleague’s inbox while the said colleague was absent.
Considering the percentage of unimportant emails, we can infer that a lot of the time spent communicating via email can be better spent on tasks of higher priority.
In the end, emails seem to be losing their draw in business settings. Almost half of the employees (47%) cite “receiving fewer emails” as a prerequisite for higher job satisfaction.
Statistics on online tools use at the workplace
According to Project, online tools take second place when it comes to workplace communication devices — with a share of 28%.
The benefits seem to justify this relatively high share, but also point out the benefits of using online tools more in the future. A Work Institute report on retention shows that effective communication systems help retain top talents in companies by 450%.
Let’s now look at the use of specific types of online tools.
A detailed Pew Research Center study shows that 81% of adults working from home at least part-time say they use video calling or online conferencing services to stay in touch with their teams. 59% report using these services and tools often.
Zoom, as an example of a video calling/online conferencing services
However, these numbers differ more prominently when we observe educational backgrounds:
- 64% of four-year college graduates working from home at least part-time report they often use video calling or online conferencing services;
- 48% of professionals without a four-year college degree report they do the same.
Income is the second influential factor — video calling/online conferencing services are used by:
- 69% of upper-income workers;
- 56% of middle-income workers;
- 41% of lower-income workers.
An individual’s role in an organization is the third factor — 70% of supervisors use these tools, compared to 55% of people who are not supervisors.
Apart from video calling/online conferencing services, 57% of people also like to use instant messaging platforms. 43% report using these business communication platforms often.
Pumble, as an example of a business communication platform
When it comes to business-focused instant messaging platforms, there are no educational gaps.
Moreover, the income gap is a smaller one.
However, age is a factor that matters, with the younger generations taking precedence. These platforms are used by:
- 49% of those younger than 50;
- 30% of those 50 and older.
Unlike video calling or online conferencing services and instant messaging platforms, Intranets are slowly becoming outdated regardless of age groups, income levels, or educational platforms.
Namely, in companies that use Intranets as online communication solutions, only 13% report using them daily. The actual use of Intranets may be even smaller. According to a survey by Prescient Digital Media, 31% of employees surveyed admit they never use their companies’ Intranets.
Statistics on face-to-face interactions at the workplace
According to Project, people spend 23% of their time engaged in business communication on in-person interactions.
Meetings are a large part of such face-to-face interactions, especially those happening in person. According to the Otter blog, there are 11 million meetings held each day, and employees spend 4 hours in meetings or preparing for meetings.
Project’s report shows that 61% of people believe they waste time at meetings. This assumption seems to be justified — as much as 71% of senior managers believe meetings to be unproductive and inefficient.
Moreover, one survey of 6,500 people found that among the 19 million meetings observed, the ineffective meetings cost up to $399 billion (US) and $58 billion (UK).
Like we previously mentioned, Generation Z and Baby Boomers prefer face-to-face communication (which may or may not be in-person) — but, data shows that Millenials prefer to avoid it, if possible.
These findings have a basis in other studies and reports. Namely, about 70% of Millennials claim going to the office is not necessary for effective work.
Statistics on phone calls at the workplace
According to Project, phone calls are still present as a form of workplace communication — albeit, with a share of only 2%.
According to ZDNet research, an average phone conversation lasts 3 minutes and 15 seconds. Now, for a person who takes 5 business calls with colleagues and clients per day, this amounts to a little more than 16 minutes spent on phone calls per day.
But, if we take into account that people need 23 minutes and 15 seconds to regain real focus on work at hand after an unexpected distraction — and phone calls tend to be unexpected — the assertion that phone calls are time-consuming seems to have merit.
As workplaces shift from offices to online environments more and more, efficient communication is becoming more important than ever — alongside the right digital tools and proper training.
Great communication skills are sought after, even more so than demonstrated experience. Knowing business-relevant international languages is gaining traction, as remote work allows for the creation of many international, multicultural teams. The need for centralized information systems is evident. So is the importance of providing regular feedback to employees.
As a result of improving workplace communication, businesses increase retention, productivity, performance, and can potentially save millions in profit.
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