This is what creates problems with virtual team communication:
Body language gives meaning to 55% of your message. Tone conveys the second 38%. A mere 7% are behind words.
How can you compensate for the lost 93% when you have only virtual communication tools?
In this blog post, we will explain the ways to mimic the subtleties of effective face-to-face communication virtually.
You will understand why virtual communication is important and how it is better than speaking to someone in person. You will learn how to create trust, shared culture, work ethic, and personal connection, and how to create a structure to minimize misunderstandings and distractions that produce communication failures.
Communication Challenges for Virtual Teams
People are creatures of habit. They look for some workplace predictability to be able to function at their maximum, make good decisions, and engage productively in a safe team. The usual culprits for poor virtual communication are the following:
- Distrust. Trust in virtual teams is dynamic and changes according to shared experiences and ongoing interaction.
- Lack of personal connection. Connection is cognitive (based on competence, reliability, and professionalism) and affective (based on mutual support).
- Real-world distractions. Distractions are subjective (poor discipline and mindset, lack of mental tools to stay focused) and external (phone ringing, a dog looking for attention, app notifications).
- Incompatible work ethic. For example, one team member is used to working for six hours consistently, then taking two days off while another works for several hours each day.
- Inconsistent office culture. Contradicting attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors create havoc with virtual communication.
- Delegation issues. Confusion over who does what and when is a common challenge for virtual teams, forcing leaders to micromanage.
- Response times. Failing to set a response standard creates false expectations.
All these challenges create a world of differences in the communication styles between team members. How you lead the virtual team makes or breaks the communication.
Watch the video to learn more about improving the quality of your virtual team:
Adapting the situational leadership model to the virtual environment results in choosing one of the four leadership approaches: coaching, mentoring, delegating, and directing your team. Deciding what approach suits each situation best depends on your understanding of the importance and effectiveness of virtual communication, and how to communicate effectively virtually.
Benefits of Virtual Communication in the Workplace
Virtual communication is important because it increases team efficiency and productivity.
- Teams can solve problems quickly through instant group chats and come to a mutually agreeable solution to a pressing concern. Communicating virtually is better because of faster message exchange: it saves time.
- Visual messages such as videos convey the meaning more effectively than simple words. With the help of the video the confusion arising from typed words decreases. The combination of text and visuals in virtual communication tools enriches the message and clarifies the meaning better than just using words.
- When the opportunity to communicate with a team member is impossible or limited due to physical distance, virtual team communication creates team cohesion and boosts member closeness.
- Asynchronous virtual communication saves time, reduces distractions, provides better control over your workday, and consequently, a better focus on important goals.
It is easy to fall into the pitfall of ineffective virtual communication unless you make course corrections.
Effective Virtual Team Communication
When you communicate effectively, both the sender and the receiver are satisfied with the message that is conveyed with clarity and purpose.
Effective online communication discerns between private and professional conversation.
With these two in mind, you will be able to decide what digital communication too to use, how to set up communication channels, and what information to share.
How to Communicate Effectively with Virtual Teams
Communicating effectively online depends on the tools you choose, but also has common characteristics that apply to all digital tools:
Replace the advantages of physical closeness with psychological closeness through meaningful feedback, people empowerment, recognizing success, and developing employee communication skills.
2. Result-focused leadership.
When you are clear about the results related to your goals, you can ask the team for the same. Ask what you want to accomplish instead of how you want to accomplish it.
3. Structured communication.
Timeboxed communication relieves you from the pressure of being available to everyone all the time.
4. Tracking system.
Keep a digital footprint of the team’s work. With so many free virtual team communication tools available, you have no excuse for avoiding tracking results
5. Focus and predictability.
Predictability nurtures workplace safety and focus provides directions. Ensure your communication style conveys consistent messages. Explain inconsistencies immediately.
6. Time self-management.
Improve your time-management skills by developing clarity about your key goals and priorities and build self-discipline around them to remain punctual.
Keep them on point. Don’t spill over to unexpectedly raised topics to solve key concerns and avoid unnecessarily extended sessions.
8. Voice, body language, and facial expressions.
Adjust your tone in video and audio meetings to make the best of this virtual communication technology and balance out the loss of emotional expression characteristical of face-to-face interaction.
Pay attention to your words. The words you choose have the power to shift employee perceptions, ease work stress, and help your team productively focus on goals.
10. Active listening.
Listening is about 45% of effective communication. Don’t forget to pause, listen, and reflect on the message conveyed by the other party to improve understanding.
Watch the video to learn more about the power of positive words:
Best Practices for Online Communication
- Have a communication plan. A plan establishes ongoing social interactions and transparency about team commitment to shared goals that deliver results with an impact.
- Set some ground rules. Determine clearly what is unacceptable and what you won’t tolerate. Follow through to set an example and be a team player.
- Use appropriate technology. Take some time to find the technology that best supports your workflow processes.
- Coordinate your team. Discover glitches in communication channels and develop new ways to move past them.
- Set team check-ins. Short-timed regular check-ins give an opportunity to record and discuss important matters and strengthen team cohesion.
- Reduce meeting time, numbers, and attendees. Only hold necessary meetings. Ask for voluntary attendance. Assign meeting slots to your calendars and don’t diverge from them for non-priorities.
- Create a knowledge base. Explain the way you work clearly in a digital app. This keeps the explanation permanent for newcomers and keeps your team on track.
- Use shared channels. Overcommunicate, especially in the initial stages of setting up a virtual team to bring everyone on the same page and establish trust.
- Provide your team members autonomy. Virtual communication tools enable the building of autonomous, self-manging teams that show high task responsibility and commitment.
Hiring the right people, establishing a shared team identity, and clearly defining roles that suit people are three simple ways to improve team quality and increase loyalty, participation, and engagement.
Improve your virtual team communication skills with our free team-building blueprint:
free virtual team building blueprint
Minimizing internal and external distractions is a powerful tool for improving virtual communication.
Here are some additional resources to help you do it: