One of our all-time most popular blog posts is our 10 Workplace Communication Skills article. With the evolution of the office over the last couple of years, YK Communications thought it was important to offer up similar information about virtual workplace communication.
Effective communication skills are becoming more important in the workplace as face-to-face communication becomes replaced by online communication. The majority of our communication is mediated by body language and tone of voice, according to scientists. It's true that you can hear your teammates on calls, chat with them on Slack, and see them on a videoconference. However, all online communication methods lack some important cues. Your colleague can't see you tapping your foot impatiently or eyeing the door waiting for you to wrap it up and get to the point on a video call. It's hard to build rapport when you can't connect in the lunchroom or stop for casual conversation on your way to work, and they can't see you slaving away at your desk or engaged in a meeting in the conference room.
Practice these virtual communication skills to better work relationships and more effectively working remote:
It is important to respect your colleagues or clients regardless of whether you are seeing them face-to-face or not. If you do not respect the time and focus of others, you will erode trust and be less productive. Do this by showing up on time just like you should in-person, by being prepared (looking professional and ready with video software downloaded and link ready to go), and by staying on task without interrupting. Looking off-screen or forgetting to mute yourself can be distracting and come off as disrespectful. Stay attentive and aware of your microphone settings.
No one likes meetings that could have been an email. What’s worse are meetings that seem to go on forever with no clear agenda or ending in sight. Without traditional body language cues, it can be difficult to identify when attendees are zoning out or otherwise losing interest. Create a clear agenda and send it out ahead of the meeting or share it on screen, then stick to it and only take up as much time as you need to get the agenda items covered.
Remote work can leave teams feeling distant. Being behind a screen can make individuals seem more like avatars and less like the humans they really are. A few ways to combat this include weekly discussion prompts that are lighthearted and work unrelated, completed bio sections within digital communications platforms, profile photo updates, or even scheduled virtual happy hours.
Some digital communication platforms like Discord and Slack offer audio rooms or “huddles” so teams can casually chat while working. Having the ambient chatter can actually help some remote workers feel more included, which increases both morale and productivity.
Just because it is said on a video call does not mean it is committed to memory. In a virtual workspace, it is best to over-do versus under-do. A clear agenda prior to the call, discussion during the call, and then clarification or reiteration in the meeting minutes following the call should be expected. Ample time should be allowed for questions, and frequently asked questions or particularly good questions should be turned into a simple FAQ that can be distributed to all team members.
Be clear in expectations for better communication and results.
All this said, many people are still learning and adapting to virtual workplace communication. Give team members some grace and understand that we are all learning day to day. Accept that no matter how much preparation is done there will be interruptions, cancelations, unmuted mics, technical glitches, and so much more. Taking these “hiccups” in stride will make for a better work environment and attitude.
YK Communications hopes you become a more productive, cohesive workgroup by applying some of these tips for better virtual workplace communication. Most importantly, have fun with technology - we do!
And of course, if you're a business (or have a home office) located within our service area looking for faster, more reliable internet or voice options, we're just a call away: 361-771-3334.