Virtual Communication: 5 Tips to Improve Virtual Team Communication

virtual communication

Communicating Virtually at Workplace / Virtual Conversations at Work / Tips to have Virtual Conversations

Communicating virtually is no longer a luxury or an indulgence, it is now a necessity. As more and more companies have transitioned from an offline to online communication, we all can gain from the best practices to assure our thoughts and views are communicated with clarity.

We all know that virtual communication is not similar to a face-to-face communication. The way we use to work, meet, network and collaborate professionally may never be the same again. During this shift from a face-to-face to an online communication at the workplace, effective communication skills are even more critical. As per scientists only 7% of our communication is in the words we use while 55% is body language and 38% is the tone of voice.

Your teammates and colleagues may be able to listen to you on calls, chat with you over WhatsApp and see you on a videoconference, but all online communication methods are deprived of some of the body language cues that we never notice. Even on a video call, your colleague can not see you tapping your foot impatiently waiting for you to hurry up and get to the point! And therefore, it becomes challenging to build rapport as the in-between casual talks at office are missing.

working remotely, virtual communication

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Practice these 5 virtual communication skills to increase productivity and morale for yourself and your virtual teams:

  1. Be Respectful: Even if you are not meeting your colleagues or clients face-to-face, remember they should be treated with same respect as you would have given them in person. Failure to respect others’ time and focus weakens the trust and leads to detachment and under-productivity.
    • Be Punctual: It is always suggested to respect others’ time by being on-time (or even being early and waiting for the others to join) for online meetings. Ensure you have the video link in place so that you are not trying to figure out things at the last minute and also make it easy for others by including the video links in the calendar invites that you share.
    • Be Professional and Prepared: Consider a virtual meeting as an official meeting. Dress up and sound professional. Be prepared and take care of the following things:  Put on a clean shirt, Move your computer to a place with a professional-looking background, Take a quick break to get your mind ready and focused prior to the meeting.
    • Focus: Avoid multitasking during virtual meetings. Concentrate on the person or people and the topic in hand. Keep your Phone on Silent mode, Minimize the screens which are not required and don’t eat or munch anything even if you are on mute or have your video off.
    • Don’t Interrupt: Do not derail purposeful threads or channels with off-topic conversations — just as you wouldn’t interrupt an in-person meeting to talk about non work-related issues.
  1. Get to the point: Clarity and conciseness are common elements required for effective virtual communication. Clarity means expressing your point in a simple and direct manner while conciseness means to be brief while communicating and avoid long explanations. Remember, your colleagues are busy too, so respect their time by getting to the point.
  1. Get Personal: Remote working requires the feeling of being connected as we humans are social creatures.  People working remotely tend to feel isolated and disconnected and to avoid this we should try to create a similar environment of an in-person meeting by initiating ‘water cooler conversations’, make time to connect at a personal level with your team and colleagues.

    Practice spending the first few minutes of a meeting by asking what’s going on in your colleagues’ lives; get team members to share a personal highlight of their day; set up virtual coffee chats to strengthen relationships and build rapport.
  1. Over-communicate: While working remotely there are chances of colleagues or team members to ‘disappear’ if there is no proactive communication expected from them.

    For being aligned and inspired, it is important to over-communicate by asking questions, clarifying objectives, reporting progress on goals, encouraging and affirming others’ efforts, stating requirements and providing feedback. Be deliberate in your communications, keeping in mind that you are lacking the insights one would gain from non-verbal cues and casual conversations.
  1. Focus on the message received: All communications — either in person or virtual — has two components: message sent and message received. The most proficient communicators direct their energy towards how their message is received.

    During virtual communications, it is easy for messages to be misinterpreted or misunderstood as it lacks the subtle cues of an in-person conversation. Emoticons play an important role when we send messages digitally. GIFs can also assist in giving the right nuances. Be mindful of language; use exclamation points with consideration; be attentive with dry humor and sarcasm; Don’t use all caps unless the purpose of your message is to come across as yelling; pause for feedback and questions if you are communicating by video or phone. Misconstrued messages can lead to resentment, confusion, frustration and disengagement. Before sending written communication, always read everything out loud to yourself.

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 Having difficult conversations virtually is tricky

In the current scenario, we all are working remotely and we all end up with these risky conversations on the phone or via email. Ironically, these are our absolute worst options.

When you are communicating over the telephone, your words and tone of voice help you to deliver your message, but you might be unable to bring out the kind of reaction you want from the conversation, as body language cues and rapport is missing. The other option is Email or Text which is worse than telephonic conversation, as without a tone of voice and body language to compliment the message, the receiver must guess what your meaning and intentions really are.

So, it is not advisable to have a difficult conversation via message where it might cause an emotional response. You might be tempted to do it via text, email or a hard copy letter – DON’T! Instead, make an appointment, go and see the individual in person. If conducting an in-person meeting is not possible, try to have this conversation via a medium that includes real-time voice and visual communication. There are plenty of options out there: Skype, Facetime, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Team Viewer and GoToMeeting, to name a few.

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Communicating with remote employees can definitely be a challenge and it arises due to the infrequency of conversations overall. Not being with them in person is another issue that can cause misunderstandings. Being more deliberate and precise in the way that you converse with others will help avoid frustration and misinformation. Taking the time to implement these tips will not only improve the quality of your conversations but the quality of your results as well.

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