In a time of uncertainty, stress, and fear of what the future might look like, we lean on each other for support and compassion. But what does that look like in the workforce, and specifically, the rapidly expanding remote workforce? Companies all over have made efforts to transition, some even permanently, to remote work in order to prioritize their employees’ health and safety. The reliance on remote collaboration presents a new set of challenges for businesses, especially regarding communication and team-building. For many, however, the cause is worth this evolution that society approaches. What is lost through virtual communications, like facial expressions and body language, can now be gained and maintained through unified communication efforts and redefining what strong leadership is.
One step a business can take to ensure effective virtual communication within their team is to be sure the technology they choose to use is easily accessible and user-friendly. Tools like Skype and Zoom have been go-to products that make communication over video easy, even with larger groups. Beyond virtual conferencing, reliable messaging, like email or products like Slack, mean that team members are readily available to one another as needed throughout the course of a project or workflow.
With all the options for elevated virtual communication, it may seem like everything your business could need is covered. But technology can only take us so far. You can have the highest quality video chat, the clearest calls, and most efficient lines of contact in place, but none of that changes the fact that behind all that text and all those screens are human beings.
Think about what it means, what it feels like, to be part of a team. To be part of something bigger than yourself, but something that also connects you as an individual to other individuals reaching toward similar goals. That connection has to exist in order to succeed, and fostering it within a remote environment might take a bit more patience and creativity.
It’s so easy to take for granted being able to see and communicate in person with your co-workers each day. You see them physically in front of you. Some days they may look tired, other days refreshed and energized. You hear them talk to their kids or significant other over the phone on their breaks. Maybe you eat lunch together. You pop over to their desk if you have a question or need a second opinion about something you’re working on. You grow and change alongside each other. Celebrate the victories and stew over the failures together. Just existing next to each other and communicating you cultivate a meaningful relationship. Translating that kind of connectedness within a remote work situation means actively encouraging not just professional communication, but also meaningful communication and mindful gratitude as a whole.
Encouraging appropriately-framed personal communication will make all other interactions more efficient and organic. It’s easier to work effectively with others when that work is built on a foundation of trust, understanding, and respect. The only way to create this foundation is through meaningful communication. David Liu, founder and CEO of Deltapath shares how he is ensuring meaningful communication within his team:
As we brace ourselves under Shelter In Place and work virtually as a team, it is very important to take the time outside of work context to connect with your employees and your team in a meaningful way. We have all of the tools and technology available to communicate remotely, but are you truly connecting with the person on the other side of the line? At Deltapath, we encourage our teammates to have more casual and accidental interactions with each other. This is why we make every internal call a video call. By doing so, we get to have more real connections with each other especially when they bring their children into the call! These human connections formed virtually helps to set a less rigid tone in business discussions and bring smiles to your hectic day.
Indeed, carving out the time for small talk, for getting to know employees and coworkers and intentionally listening to them will only strengthen inner team connection, increasing productivity and focus. If a person cares about the people they work with, and if that feeling is reciprocated, that care and attention transmits into their work. It’s no secret, people who feel heard and appreciated are more productive and creative.
Another thing to consider as you create systems to promote connectedness and meaningful communication within your team or business is that meaningful communication might take different forms to different people. While everyone may need to be willing to utilize all forms of virtual communication at certain points, especially during team-building efforts, when it comes to one-on-one meetings or check-ins, some people might prefer a face-to-face video call, while others feel more comfortable drafting their thoughts, feelings, and concerns via email. Honoring these preferences when possible during remote collaboration is a great way to show that your business cares about the wellbeing and comfort of its employees as individual human beings. For some, particularly those that just recently made the transition into remote work, video calls might feel awkward, but a phone or audio call seems more natural. Listening to the opinions of your remote workforce will help create not only a more positive work experience, but also provide a bridge for more meaningful communication as you further develop and expand strategies that are right for your business and the people that keep it going.
Beyond just the professional environment, people are now hyper-aware of their connections, and lack thereof, with others. Remote work doesn’t have to just be about fast and efficient collaboration anymore. The world has changed in a way that it is entirely necessary for people to take the time to know and hear the people they work with, even if they’re 3000 miles away. In a way, this societal transition propels something we’ve been headed towards all along. Human connection and meaningful communication without limits.