The increase in the number of people working remotely in 2020 has thrown up a number of issues with regards to communication, not least of which is the number of tools available with which to network with our fellow workers and clients.
In this article, we look at how virtual communication has evolved and why people have to adapt to the changing work environment if they are to make the most of the opportunities presented.
What are the problems with remote working?
Working from home has many benefits, but it also has its problems. Isolation and not being able to chat casually with a colleague is often quoted by some who work away from the office.
At home, there may be distractions or inadequate space in which to work. There may be others around who don’t necessarily appreciate that you are trying to work.
Motivation can be a problem without set deadlines, or the fact that you are working strange hours, sometimes more than you did in the office. This can lead to fatigue, which can be difficult to shake off without others around.
Often non-visual communication can be misconstrued. When you cannot see the facial expression or body language, it is easy to get the wrong end of the stick.
For instance, everyone knows that writing in CAPITALS is regarded as shouting, but other habits from social media can easily creep in, which can be at best unprofessional and at worst offensive. The use of exclamation marks for example. Some like to pepper their messages with these, leaving the recipient wondering what they did wrong!!! Txt spk and LOLs are another no-no!
What was that message again?
With so many ways of communicating, it has become difficult to keep track – even socially, the choices seem endless. At one time we had just a mobile phone and text messages, now we have smartphones with WhatsApp, Messenger, Snapchat, Gmail. We can video chat with Zoom, Facetime, Skype, Google Duo… the list goes on.
The same applies to business. You can get a message with some vital information and then lose track of how it came in. So what do you do? You pick up the phone and ask the person to either repeat it verbally or send it again. The end result is more frustration and time wasted on both ends of the phone.
Inefficient communication costs money and can lose you business. Imagine if that message had come from a client?
What can be done to resolve these issues?
Managing communications is a real headache facing most project managers. Using tools such as Asana, it is easier to network with team members and engage with the client, but all team members need to be on board with it. Training is key.
Virtual events such as meetings require a lot of preparation by all parties. Here are some tips on what you need:
- The right environment – if in your house or hotel room get the lighting right and reduce clutter.
- The right attire – you may not be in the office but dress appropriately.
- No distractions – mute phones and disable notifications on your laptop or tablet.
- Make sure you have a good Internet connection and the chosen media is working perfectly.
Dealing with the anti-social aspect of remote working is more difficult, but good communication has got to help.
How has the cloud helped?
Before the cloud, we had conference calls and for bigger organisations video conference calls where you could actually see who you were talking to, but everyone had to be in fixed locations.
The cloud has opened up opportunities for virtual communication within teams making it possible for anyone with a smartphone and an Internet connection to join virtual events from anywhere in the world.
Remember, we’re only human
A chatbot is a great way to engage with customers who visit your website at obscure times. Bots can respond to queries, maybe even solve the problem but you also have to provide a means to contact a real person, even if not straight away.
Live chat is a good way to do this if you have the resources, if not, provide an email address that will be responded to within 24 hours.
There has been a significant increase in the use of virtual communication tools over the last four years and the recent global crisis has put these tools under the spotlight as more people are working remotely.
The potential for this technology is endless, but at the moment we are only just scraping the surface. Will it be a case of less is more? Well, there is room for some consolidation as more and more platforms become available, each vying for our attention. If we are to harness it to its full effect, we need to understand how all the parts fit together to provide the best solution for any specific project.