As the UK faces the easing of the lockdown, businesses across the country are having to make changes and get ready to head back into the office. For some of us, however, staying remote for a little longer seems like the most likely reality and so making the most of communication while we’re still working from home is a must. From video calls to regular emails or instant messaging, staying in touch with colleagues and teams is an important part of keeping a business afloat. The question is, are you communicating effectively enough?
Think About Digital Body Language
When you’re on a video call with your colleagues or employees, body language is everything, even more so than a conversation face-to-face. With nowhere to look other than your computer screen, you and they will be in the proverbial spotlight constantly, with no knowledge of when someone else in the chat is looking at you or another participant. For this reason, paying careful attention to body language and how you’re presenting yourself is important.
Foe example, it is reported that business professionals expect listeners and video conference participants to maintain eye contact for around 50-60% of the duration of a call or presentation, with lower or limited eye contact creating the idea that you are a poor listener, lack self-confidence or simply don’t want to be part of the call. Similarly, poor posture can make you seem disinterested while stiff posture can make you seem uncomfortable or defensive.
Are All Of Your Team Members Contributing?
During video chats or even group emails, it’s important to pay attention to whether all of your team members are contributing to a discussion. There may be cases where an employee or two just don’t have anything to contribute, just like in standard meetings, but it’s vital to work out whether this could be due to poor confidence or whether they feel uncomfortable speaking up.
Make sure you give everyone the chance to speak and say their piece about the topic of the meeting and if they don’t have anything to contribute, you still gave them the opportunity. If they do speak, be as supportive as you can to any ideas, even if the ideas aren’t possible to implement, to ensure they aren’t deterred from contributing in the future.
Are You Having Too Many Meetings?
You may be surprised to know that too many video calls can actually be detrimental to both communication and to productivity. If your colleagues or employees are spending their day jumping from call to call or you’re having more than one or two calls a week, consider whether all of the meetings are essential. Could any of them be summed up in a single email instead? Or are there cases where not everyone is needed in the meeting or if it could be classed as non-obligatory?
Some of the top reasons recorded as to why people enjoy remote working are a better work-life balance (91%), better focus or productivity (79%) and reduced stress (78%), but these things can only come about when flexibility and freedom are allowed. With constant meetings, productivity can be affected as concentration can’t be encouraged for longer periods, and a lack of flexibility throughout the work day can put pressure on employees and create stress. So any time you go to schedule a meeting, think about whether it’s needed, or whether a company email might get the point across just as well.
Do You Talk Throughout The Day?
When you’re working at home in your own little bubble, it’s incredibly easy to go days without talking to a single coworker. While some people may still thrive, a lack of communication throughout a day can mean that the team as a whole isn’t conversing well. Even if you’re talking about everyday things, from what you got up to in the evening to sending gifs or pictures throughout the day as little pick-me-ups, keeping communication up throughout a day via some kind of instant messaging or group chat can make all the difference. It also goes a long way to making work-related chats easier and more inclusive as a whole.
Keep Complicated Chats Away From Emails
While reducing the number of video chats can be a good thing, it’s important to know what topics do need to be discussed via a video call or a standard phone call. Sometimes, sending long, wordy emails discussing an issue can actually lead to miscommunication. Instead, take these topics to a verbal chat to go through the details in more depth and with less chance of miscommunication. It’ll also get you the answers you need much more quickly!
Do You Have Meeting Agendas?
Setting meeting agendas for each video call can do wonders for improving communication as a whole. An agenda that’s sent around prior to the video call gives employees and team members the chance to not only prepare for the meeting, but identify any issues around the chosen agenda that they might want to discuss. They can also send any ideas to you prior to the meeting to be added to the agenda.
An agenda can set the right tone for the meeting, identify the topics that need to be discussed and keep people focused on those topics, and prevent a lack of discussion by giving people the earlier opportunity to determine what they wanted to say. If you really want to make sure that all issues are addressed, send around an email earlier in the week and gather any issues or projects that people want to discuss on the call.
Collaboration Is Limited Or Non-Existent
When we’re all sitting in the same office face-to-face, asking a quick question or someone’s opinion on something is far easier than when we’re at home. It’s easy to fall into the habit of trying to work through projects or problems on our own while we’re working remotely. If collaboration seems to be at an all-time low at the moment, this could be a sign that your team isn’t communicating effectively and there’s a chance that this could be affecting productivity or quality of work.
Using collaborative tools and encouraging communication when the right opportunities arise can create a better sense of teamwork, even if it will only take one person to complete the task at hand. Encouraging input from other employees can help to develop ideas to a higher level and even come up with new ways to approach an issue that will benefit the team and your clients.
You’re Not Thinking About Mental Health Or Psychological Safety
The mental and psychological health of your employees is more important than ever right now. Whether your employees are used to working from home or this is an entirely new situation for them all, making sure you have safeguards and processes in place that can ensure they are comfortable and healthy is crucial. Feeling alone is a prominent issue in remote workers and it can lead to difficulty coming back to work following a long time spent working at home. Without regular communication with colleagues, it can become too easy to fall into a sense of fear or discomfort with talking or communicating, potentially leading to anxiety.
Build a sense of safety for the employees that are struggling the most by introducing a round-robin style of video meeting, giving everyone the chance to express any concerns or difficulties they are facing. It’s important to make sure that you’re staying in fairly regular contact and that everyone feels included in the conversations you are having. In certain teams, icebreaker activities such as brain teasers or general chit-chat can help encourage confidence in those who might otherwise be struggling to communicate.