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Connecting in this new Virtual World

Let's be honest, most of us will be working virtually for the foreseeable future and potentially much more than we ever had before. I believe how we work moving forward will completely change from the large corporate offices with bums on seats 9-5; we can already see companies like Twitter moving to a fully virtual team and many staggering the day’s people can work on the office.

This may be a win for flexible working, however, there are some challenges with how we communicate as we would in a face to face scenario. Communication via digital means, and not face to face, can be argued to be much harder - both from an energy perspective (zoom fatigue anyone?) and also how successful our message is understood. 93% of communication is non verbal, with 55% coming from body language and 38% from tone of voice which means what we actually have to say is a very small percentage of how we communicate. Being on video calls day in and day out can be draining and it is much more difficult to get our personalities across when we are stuck behind a computer screen. It can also be difficult in large meetings to get your point across without interrupting people.

We are not used to looking at our faces as much as we are now doing on video calls and that can make us self-conscious and sometimes quieter than normal. Having a good set up can help us feel better about ourselves and therefore more confident to speak up. Here are some tips to how we can better connect with people virtually:

Check in with people

This is something we can and should be doing in our personal lives too, but it’s very easy to get caught up in the day to day. This pandemic we are in, impacts people in different ways – I love the analogy that we are in the same storm but in different boats. Checking in on someone to see how they are doing and how they are coping can make someone’s day and in turn they may pass that on (I love how paying it forward can make the world a nicer place!). Extroverts may be suffering more than us introverts, due to them getting energy from social interactions, so make sure you are giving them a social recharge!

Your set up

Try and ensure you have good lighting. This is not only better for your eyes but a lamp on your workspace is good as it will illuminate your face - sometimes a down lighter can cause quite a bit of shadow on your face. Prop your laptop up so the camera is in-line with your face (no one needs to highlight those double chins!) and far enough away that people can see your upper body and your body language. We know body language is an important measure to communication and this can sometimes be difficult to get across in front of a screen.

Virtual coffee chats

Gone are the days of meeting for a coffee (sob! Although I think our bank balances are thanking us), however it is still as important (maybe more so) to build and develop your network and connections. Your network are the people around you who you have worked with before or have interactions with. This bunch of people are your connection to your next job, helping you with a problem or a new opportunity! Schedule a virtual coffee with someone in your network or someone you met that you are interested in finding out more about. If you try and do this once or twice a week it will feel quite manageable and will mean in a month you will have connected with 4-8 people!

Bring some fun!

Work doesn’t always have to be serious. Connecting with people is as much about doing non work things, as it is about working together. I think many of us are tired of zoom quizzes with friends at the weekend, but try and think about fun games you can play with your team and colleagues. Could you do a skill learning session where one of you teaches your team about something they do out of work (flower pressing? Cooking? Yoga?)

Make sure you are switching off

Now, this might seem an odd point in a post about connecting digitally. HOWEVER, it is so important that we have time away from our screen. Now more than ever we are constantly ‘on’, which is impacting our mental and emotional health. Taking time away from screens to do hobbies, go on walks and spend time with your pet/partner/children (delete as appropriate) is so important to help recharge your batteries. Trying to do an occasional digital detox may also be useful, especially if your reflex is to look at your phone when it is next to you!

Do you have any other tips you would add to the list?

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