4 Tips to Mastering Remote Communication
Are you a master of remote communication? There are many tools and tricks people should know, especially when we communicate this way every day. Read on.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced companies, schools, and institutions all around the world to adopt remote communication at a greater pace and scale than ever anticipated. While this has contributed to a slowdown in the economy, the long-term benefits of this step forward in digitalization may yet begin to unfold. But before we can make the most of the benefits of high-quality remote communication, we need to learn how best to harness it.
Despite months and months of calls, meetings, and classes held entirely online, many people still struggle to make the most of virtual telecommunication tools, collaborative software, and other remote communication options.
While some are heavily anticipating the return to the office as COVID restrictions loosen and transmission rates go down, the reality remains that many others would enjoy petitioning for a continued work-from-home or work-from-anywhere arrangement, and the near future of the workplace looks a lot more hybrid or remote than purely traditional office setups.
Regardless of whether you’re a fan of remote communication or are desperately wishing for things to go back to 90 percent face-to-face interaction, mastering the tools of the digital trade will undoubtedly become more and more of a prerequisite in workspaces and office environments throughout the world. Let’s go over a handful of basic tips for mastering remote communication in the post-pandemic world.
1. Improve Your Camera Angles and Lighting
One thing everyone has had to tackle during the early days of the pandemic is finding ways to make oneself presentable over Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other video communication platforms while working from home.
If you haven’t made the most of what’s available to you to appear professional even when working from your bedroom, note that you can drastically improve your appearance and professionalism while on a video call with just a few pointers:
- Face a window during daytime or use a desk light behind your camera to illuminate your face.
- Take note of your posture and camera placement to center your head and provide a good shoulder cutoff of your video feed.
- Look into the camera or situate the camera close to where your eyes would be on the monitor, rather than off to the side.
- Never film yourself from a low angle. Keep the camera at eye or nose level.
An interesting caveat to keep in mind is that there is room for discussion on whether video is always necessary when communicating internally. High quality video feeds can greatly improve collaborative efforts by allowing for the processing of non-verbal cues within small teams. But when teams get larger, it becomes significantly harder to both manage and interpret non-verbal cues in the group, while maintaining the bandwidth needed to support high-quality audio and video.
2. Be Mindful of Tone in Non-Verbal Communication
Tone matters. And when communicating non-verbally, it matters almost more than it would in a face-to-face or audio conversation. It can become hard to convey the right subtext purely via chat or mail, so take the time to reread your messages back to yourself and be mindful of unintentionally negative cues.
Aside from the tone of your writing, there are a few other non-verbal cues that you want to pay attention to.
You can easily send the wrong message by ignoring your coworkers’ boundaries, sending messages late at night or long after hours, or by reacting non-verbally (rolling your eyes, scoffing) during a large video call while forgetting that the camera is on you (yes, this has happened to people).
3. Keep Conversations Within Their Respective Platforms
A simple yet important tip is to avoid jumping between platforms when discussing something with a colleague. If you have continued questions about a project you are working on together, ask them through the same channel you use to work on the project together.
Don’t start up another email thread to retread older topics. One of the benefits of using multiple different communications platforms is that you can sort and review conversations, and go over old messages to remember what someone said, how they worded it, or check when certain information was conveyed.
By spreading a conversation out over multiple different platforms, you make it harder both for yourself and your colleague to keep track of what has been said, and when it was said.
4. Get Comfortable with Remote Communication
There are simply too many benefits and conveniences to remote communication to imagine that it would become less relevant once things return “back to normal”.
It’s much more likely that companies that were forced to digitalize faster during the pandemic will continue to adapt to technological changes, and adopt improvements in remote communication in order to expand their talent pools, create remote and hybrid teams, and benefit from the flexibility that comes with virtual workspaces, coworking spaces, and collaborative software.
With that in mind, the most important tip for any professional looking to improve on their remote communication skills is to make more use them, both professionally and in casual settings.
Improve your written communication skills and language skills, especially in multilingual teams where you might need to respond to emails and chat messages in multiple different languages.
Learn more about how you can convey subtext and nuance through text in ways that help your coworkers feel comfortable around you, avoids miscommunication, and breaks the ice.
Make the most out of digital watercoolers and get comfortable with the camera and mic through shared lunch meetings, weekend gaming sessions, and watercooler chats.
Finally, understand that with remote communication comes the reality of non-standard work hours and flexible boundaries. That being said, when managing workers remotely, remember one of the golden rules of working remotely: focus on tasks and results, not micromanagement.
Measure a coworker’s ability to meet the challenges of their job via deliverables, and keep in mind that remote work can be both equal parts distracting and incredibly productive, due to its flexibility.
Regardless of how future social networks and software will change the way we interact over the internet, communicating and collaborating across oceans and continents is here to stay.