With an astounding 88% of employees working from home on a regular basis, it seems more and more people dimming the lights on an in-person office setting and converting space in their homes into a functional workplace, optimal communication is key in creating a successful virtual work environment. However, most people are new to this new virtual world and aren’t sure how to navigate the workplace successfully. There is actually a learning curve involved in learning how to speak, respond, and engage virtually.
Tips for Improving Communications in a Virtual Workplace
If you or your crew are new to the virtual work world, you might have to teach your team some new strategies for communicating. Here are four ways to improve communication on your virtual team and preserve existing relationships so that you can move forward during this transition and flourish, no matter where you are.
1. Keep It Personal
It’s no mystery that effective communication builds strong relationships, fosters healthy collaboration between managers and employees, and is imperative for successful outcomes. The easiest way to develop this type of communication is to give yourself permission to ‘get personal.’ Even without a physical desk filled with family pictures and one’s obvious football pick by the pennant tacked to their corkboard, an individual’s virtual space can tell a lot about the person and can add to the characteristics that are unique to your coworkers.
Engage in conversation during your morning huddle about what’s going on outside of work. Allow space for people to tell about an upcoming anniversary or celebrate their son getting his driver’s license. A little small talk can go a long way in a virtual setting. Your more social coworkers may be missing the water cooler conversations that ultimately create relationships that lend to professional successes. Those connections are crucial, even when you can only see the person from the waist up.
2. Use the Tools
When it comes to video conferencing and virtual meetings, take your pick of the many effective platforms, including Google Meet, Zoom, and Skype, just to name a few. Thanks to the advances in this digital era, there is no shortage of ways to meet in large groups or one on one. A strong point in favor of these apps is that they are an easy way for teams to unite, which is motivating and allows for clarification of assignments, in addition to encouraging discussion among team members.
3.Create a Calendar
Gone are the days when the workday is a strict 9-5. A major advantage of working remotely for most of us is the flexibility it provides. We are well into seven months of a pandemic, which has contributed to canceled appointments, rescheduled time off, and adjustments to our workday. Some of us are working to accommodate children as they attend cyber school instead of brick and mortar or looking for safe ways to see parents in nursing homes.
It is more important than ever to keep each other in ‘the know.’ A simple shared calendar can do the trick! By showing others what times you are available, everyone’s day can be as productive as possible. Block off times you are unavailable or set an auto-reply in your e-mail settings so others aren’t guessing as to where you are if you can’t be reached.
4. Embrace the New Norm
As time goes by, this new way of working is becoming less of an anomaly and more of a normal way of life. Embrace this opportunity, and support others in their circumstances. Not everyone’s space and workday will look the same. Learn what works best for you and think twice before judging someone else’s situation. The best form of communication is empathy. Develop the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and you will be surprised how easy it is to form deeper connections that will yield success in all aspects of your work life.
Get Advice When You Need It
Cultivating good communication among a virtual team is well worth the time. Keep it personal. Use the many existing tools to fit your team’s needs without reinventing the wheel. Share your calendar and find ways to support each other along the way. The successful outcomes are a direct reflection of how well your team communicates.