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Technology & Effective Communication

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

Creating Authenticity in the Online Space

Covid19 has ushered in a need for organizations to reimagine how work is done, how meetings are conducted, and how colleagues engage with one another via online platforms. Engagement has always been important in the workplace, and it is more important now than ever before. To be fully engaged, people need to experience dignity. Dignity is the inherent worth and value of all people. Workplace Peace Institute research found that a core requirement of experiencing dignity in the workplace is having one’s voice genuinely heard and the experience of having one’s authentic self fully embraced and honored. While this has always been important, remote working intensifies this need. Following are some guidelines for creating virtual spaces that foster authenticity and cultivate dignity.

Co-Create Team Virtual Meeting Norms

Team meeting norms are documented standards co-created by each team that determines processes, preparation, and communication practices that can apply to any meeting. Each team should develop norms together that aim to ensure all voices are heard in online meetings. These norms should be reviewed prior to each meeting and revised as needed.

While every team’s norms may be different, the following are some examples of what might be helpful:

  • Test technology prior to the meeting, and resolve any technical issues before the meeting start time

  • Give your undivided attention to the team. Don’t multi-task during the meeting

  • Agree to an organized communication protocol that ensures each person has a chance to respond

  • Find a quiet space to participate

  • Use the mute button to prevent transmitting background noise

  • Speak up to get attention if you have something to say

  • Get comfortable with lengthy pauses

  • Turn on your video whenever possible, and be camera-ready

  • Don’t take screen shots without everyone’s permission

Conduct an Emotional Check-In

Connect with both the hearts and minds of your colleagues by offering an emotional check-in at the start of each meeting. Simply asking, How are you, really? is a powerful way to cultivate a brave space that invites authenticity.

Extend Grace

In the age of Covid19, many people have multiple adults, teens, and children all trying to work from home. This requires juggling schedules, sharing technology, caring for, and sometimes even teaching, children in addition to workplace responsibilities. Some households have a single parent managing the needs of children while also managing workplace responsibilities. And, people who live independently are managing their personal and professional lives with little outside connection. Few of us are working in optimal workplaces. Extend grace.

  • Everyone, use headphones or earbuds to eliminate household noises from interfering with your meeting

  • Practice patience when coworkers need to rush away quickly to meet the unexpected needs of their children or pets

  • Practice patience with dog barking and cats prancing across the computer screen

  • Allow for shorter and more frequent meetings to accomplish something that might have typically been accomplished in a multiple-hour meeting

  • Avoid scheduling meetings during the lunch hour. Many professionals are now in a position to feed their children during that time period

  • Avoid scheduling meetings that will extend past normal working hours

Manage Background Noise

Everything is louder when it is amplified through the computer mic. Before logging into your online meeting, shutdown your email, shutdown your messenger app, and silence your phone. Additionally, avoid eating during online meetings. The crunching and clinking of a fork or spoon is exponentially louder when amplified through the computer mic.

Use Techniques for Virtual Brainstorming and Feedback

Most online platforms have reaction emojis such as a thumbs up or clapping symbol. Encourage use of these as a way to keep participants engaged. Use breakout rooms for small discussions and broadcast prompts to the rooms. Use polls to get feedback and foster engagement. Allow for longer pauses than normal. Technology can cause a technical delay in communication, but there is also a delay in comprehension. The vast majority of communication is conveyed nonverbally, and it takes us much longer to process this via video.

Embrace the Call-In Participants

Though it can be difficult to remember team members when you do not see their faces, be sure to invite participation from those who have called-in rather than using video. While video should be the primary mode of communicating in an online meeting, sometimes that just isn’t possible.

Replicate Face-to-Face Etiquette

When we meet face-to-face, we tend to stay in the room and offer those we are with our undivided attention. We do not text those in the meeting with side conversations while a presenter is speaking, and we do not wander around the building. We need to replicate these norms in our online meetings.

  • To the extent that your home workspace allows, find a quiet, private space for online meetings. If you need to relocate due to environmental distractions, turn your camera off before picking your computer up and moving to another space. Turn it back on when you settle into your new space.

  • Use the chat feature of your technology to replicate face-to-face interactions.

    • Do use the chat box to say hello at the start of a meeting, to ask questions relating to the topic being discussed, to let the team know if you will be stepping away from your computer momentarily, and to say goodbye/thank you at the end of the meeting.

    • Do not use the chat feature to have side conversations, to share memes, gifs, and other files or comments not related to the topic.

    • Do not use the chat features of your technology platforms to chat in the meeting if you are not physically present in the meeting.

    • Turn your camera on so your team can see your face. When the meeting leader/presenter cannot see your face, it makes it very difficult to gauge the level of collective and individual engagement, whether people are aligned with the ideas being presented, and to cultivate a collaborative meeting.

    • Dress appropriately. If you would not wear something into the office workspace, you should not wear it in your online meeting. If your company has a dress code, follow that dress code in your online meetings.

Go Offline

Video meetings are the new norm and will be for the foreseeable future. There is no good substitute for face-to-face meetings. Communication subtleties, nuances, and human-to-human connection are lost. Take time each week to pick up the phone and make a personal call to your teammates. Connect with them at a human level, not as your role to their role. Drop a personal note in the mail. Maintain positive connection even when physical connection isn’t possible.


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