- The remote work world means that virtual meetings and communications are now commonplace.
- It’s crucial to remember that our professional brands are at stake when we use this medium ineffectively.
- Ultimately, our soft skills, and how we apply them in this specific context, will contribute to our professional success.
As the work world has shifted online and Zoom and similar platforms replace boardrooms, for the most part, business has adapted well. Most of us have integrated some level of video calling into our daily work and personal lives with success. When learning a new skill and technology, mistakes and failures are inevitable (and sometimes, entertaining). However, our professional brands are at stake, so it’s worth revisiting some of the essentials of digital communication.
Dress for business: Protect your brand by visually presenting what you want to be seen. It’s natural that things have become more casual as people work primarily from home, but this does not mean we should be wearing pajamas on business calls. Casual business attire is a must. You may with to think beyond your personal appearance to the visuals surrounding you. This doesn’t mean you need to have a perfect office; however, it’s worth keeping your workplace at home as neat and organized as is professional – just as you would in the office.
Minimize distraction. Yes, some is unavoidable, and hopefully most workplaces and colleagues are sympathetic to the unavoidable noise of children in the home, construction outdoors, or other unavoidable interruptions. Still, there are things you can do to minimize their impact – mute your microphone when you aren’t speaking, choose the most quiet space available to you, and don’t walk around unnecessarily with your device while you’re in a meeting to prevent the moving background effect.
Use gestures. Even though video conferences are, by definition, visual, it is still harder to communicate via body language as compared to being in the room with someone. Be intentional with your gestures. Smile when you greet someone or make a point of nodding to convey that you are actively listening. (side note: be sure to actively listen! It’s easy to get sidetracked by our phones or papers when on a video call, but this distraction will come across to other participants). A quick hand-raise can indicate you’d like to add something (see below).
Use the features of the technology. A simple tool which meeting moderators should use whenever possible is the ‘raised hand’ tool. Because it be difficult to ‘jump in’ with comments and be heard on video conferences, this feature allows participants to indicate that they have a point to add without interrupting other speakers. Other features such as chat can also be used to ease communication.
Revisit all the etiquette rules for digital communication. The platform may be new but at least the rules are essentially the same – actively listen, be polite, speak clearly, be professional. It’s worth extending the etiquette review to email and text, and these replace many face to face interactions. Compose professional texts and emails, be brief but polite, use spell check, and always pause before hitting ‘send’.
Ultimately, we need to nurture our soft skills, adapting them as needed to cope with the new world. Communication skills, adaptability, empathy, curiosity, problem-solving, humility – all of these are essential to thriving in the remote workplace and will serve you throughout your career.