How to Foster Healthy Communication in the Virtual Workplace

The digital age surpasses the barriers set by time and geography, allowing workers from different parts of the world to work from their homes. Digital nomads, telecommute jobs, and virtual offices were just once a lingo of few but became a trend with the advent of digitization. According to a report, about 4.3 million people are now working remotely as content developers, sales professionals, banking specialists, and more.

The virtual office is different from a traditional workplace. There is no usual chat around the coffee maker, no exchange of pleasantries in the morning, and no “water cooler talk.” Because of the lack of physical interaction, maintaining healthy communication in a virtual team is quite a challenge. It requires more effort to make sure that every member will feel connected, valued, and heard. Here are some tips that will help you build healthy communication in the virtual workplace.

1. Out of sight, but not out of mind

Just because you lack physical space doesn’t mean that you will also lack conversations. Send daily greetings to your remote employees to get them motivated, as well as thank you notes for their hard work. However, make sure not to over-communicate with your team as this could be a distraction. Too many emails, messages, and phone calls asking for constant project updates can interrupt their workflow. Some employees might also equate persistent communication to micro-management and eventually lose their motivation.

2. Right medium at the right time

Using the right medium is key to healthy communication. Choose email if you are conveying messages that include lengthy instructions. On the other hand, it is best to use a phone call if you have an urgent and time-sensitive announcement. Organizing a video conference will work best if you need to discuss an important topic, and you need everyone’s feedback. Instant messaging works best for quick catch-ups with the team members.

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3. Make them feel that you care

Delivering bad news in a remote office is both tricky and ugly. You can not see your employees’ body language, which makes it difficult for you to know how they perceive the message. You are not physically present to console them and offer a bit of relief. Rather than sending a long email, organize a video meeting when you are sharing bad news. This way, you can show your compassion through your facial expression and hand gestures. Your employees can also air their point of view and reaction, which will reduce tension and make them feel better.

4. Reinforce the company culture

Without a physical workplace, remote employees may feel isolated and disconnected at times. However, companies can still foster a sense of community through virtual team meetings to make everyone feel involved. Slack and other team messaging platforms allow employees to connect with their peers in real-time. They provide a more interactive and quick means of communication. If it’s possible, you can also arrange for in-person-conferences and yearly team building activities as they are proven to be effective avenues for employees to connect and build stronger workplace relationships.

Healthy communication is a challenge when working with a virtual team. With the right communication tools and these tips, you can make your remote employees feel that they are connected and part of a big family from a distance.

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