People & Change

Virtual communication

Imelda Rey
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From the onset of the pandemic our ways of working have changed dramatically. Some of us are working from bedrooms and dining rooms, with some being lucky enough to have dedicated home offices.

What is common for all of us is the impact that remote working has had on the nature of our interactions. As human beings we are social creatures and we need interaction with others, in some form or another. But what form that communication takes, or should take, is the question?

Even though we have had access to a range of technological channels to communicate for some time now, up until 18 months ago, most of us thought that face-to -ace interaction was the most effective form of communication. Once face-to-face was no longer an option, we were all challenged with the same choice; embrace the technology or get left behind. And that’s what we did – from family Zoom quizzes to virtual escape rooms with work colleagues. Most of us have embraced it all.

As the pandemic has continued though, ‘Zoom fatigue’ has set in. The extra concentration and focus required to communicate effectively in a virtual world has impacted us all.  This has had an interesting impact on our behaviours. Instead of reaching out to colleagues using technology to enrichen the interaction (so using video conferencing tools – with videos turned on), many of us have tended to avoid this whenever possible, instead choosing to simply send emails. Are emails the best way to communicate? No. Are they the easiest way to communicate? Quite possibly.

For communication to be effective, a message that has been transmitted needs to be understood as the sender intended it. And how we check understanding is to pick up on all verbal and non-verbal clues. Body language is key in this process. In an environment where face-to-face contact is not an option, video conferencing can help enable this process. And if you are reading this thinking, well that’s obvious, I ask you to consider how you communicate. Cast your mind back to yesterday or the last day you were in work. What was your most used channel for communication? I would guess the most popular response is email. I am not suggesting for a moment that emails aren’t appropriate. Sometimes they are. What I am saying is that seeing someone’s body language and hearing someone’s tone of voice is key to ensuring your effort to communicate has been effective.

My challenge to you, for every email you are about to send, ask yourself is that the best way to get your message across. Sometimes it will be, but sometimes you will find that your interactions with others could be much richer by making that little extra effort.

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