Although the pandemic has forced a dramatic shift into many of our workspaces, we are fortunate to live in an era equipped with endless opportunities for communicating via technology. Phones, email, instant messaging, and video conferencing allow us to stay in continuous contact without leaving our homes, making a remote work setup—while not without its hiccups—a very feasible reality.
Despite our advances in communication technology, true collaboration can be difficult when we’re unable to share a space with our team members. We lose out on reading one another’s nonverbal cues, which are often just as important as spoken conversation. The inevitable technology glitches, such as temporarily disabled WiFi or audio that refuses to work no matter how many times you restart your machine, can bring critical discussions between teams to a complete halt. Navigating through these setbacks is often a frustrating task, but there are steps you can take to minimize them as much as possible.
Test Your Video Beforehand
If you have an upcoming essential meeting, schedule a test meeting with your team the day before. This may take a few minutes out of the workday, but it’s beneficial to troubleshoot glitches and iron out any issues before they happen so you can have your real discussion without big (and often avoidable) interruptions.
Match the Technology with the Communication
Your chosen mode of communication should vary depending on your needs. Do you have an item that needs to be addressed immediately, or can it wait a day? Are you sharing any documents? Do you need to have an in-depth discussion? Instant messaging is great for urgent requests and quick conversation, while email often works better for long-term agenda items. If you need to have a lengthy conversation or group discussion, a phone call or video chat will usually be more efficient than an endless chain of emails. It’s likely that productivity levels have (understandably) fallen slightly due to current events, so efficiency is paramount when choosing your method of communication.
None of us want to reveal that we’re still in pajamas and have a raging bedhead, but consider putting on a nice shirt in preparation for a discussion that includes video as well as audio. While never a true replacement for in-person discussion, video gives coworkers an opportunity to read one another’s nonverbal cues, a critical component to successful team communication.
Communication tech is great—but be careful how you use it. The daily constant barrage of notifications and texts we all contend with was a productivity-killer before the pandemic. Now that many of us are working remotely and are thus reliant on those notifications, emails and messaging are going to claw away at our time more than ever. If you have work requiring deep focus, schedule a time when you can be away from your phone and inbox. This will give you the opportunity to cross some items off your to-do list.
Working from home for several weeks will be a challenge for everyone. By properly leveraging the extensive technology available to us, we will weather through this crisis—and stay engaged with our teammates and coworkers at the same time.