How to improve communication with co-workers during social distancing

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With the lockdown easing here in America, businesses are finally getting back some sense of normalcy. By request from some of my employees, we opened up our office last week for team members who wanted to go in and work. Since part of the team is still working remotely, however, we’ve continued having a daily Zoom call, with everyone joining in from their respective seats, whether from home or at work.

“We need to get this campaign done by the end of the day and I’m afraid that’s going to be tough given that only a few people are at work,” shared one of my team leads on a call this week. He had returned to the office and was somewhat unhappy that many of his team members had chosen to continue working remotely.

Realizing that he was upset about our working arrangements and would antagonize his team members if he continued, I intervened, “Let’s take a few minutes and get everyone to figure out which items need to be delivered today and prioritize task completion. Don’t worry.”

While we managed to get work done that day – much more efficiently than even I thought possible – I’ve found that it’s very easy to get frustrated while working from home.

Even after a few months of WFH, we’re all still getting used to remote collaboration and communication. I understood my team lead’s frustration and also his team members’ decision to continue working from home.

The question then is in this era of social distancing, how can you ensure that your remote communication policies are effective and are helping teams remain in-sync? How can you help employees keep their emotions in check so they continue to communicate and collaborate with co-workers effectively?

1. It takes two to tango

The energy with which you talk or respond to someone can influence their own energy.

This means that if you’re tense, and especially if you’re a leader, your team will also be on edge and ready to snap in the absence of meaningful communication. Communication is like a dance – you need coordination and support from both partners.

Even if you’re experiencing tension at work, remember to evaluate how you react and respond, especially in high-pressure situations. If someone says something that bothers you, take a deep breath, and think through what you’re about to say.

This is especially important during WFH, when messages can be easily misinterpreted. By taking a little more time to think about how your recipient will interpret your message, you can prevent plenty of misunderstandings and delays in delivery.

If you set the right example and try to improve communication, it’s much easier for others to follow suit.

2. The future form of the Star Trek Tricorder – people analytics

When you’re around other people, it’s easier to understand their feelings and motivations. On a Zoom call, the type of social cues you can gather depends on how good your internet connection is. Even when we use other methods of communication such as Slack or email, we have to condense what we have to say to a few lines.

This lack of face-to-face interaction creates room for misunderstanding and a lack of collaboration, productivity, and engagement. This fact drives the need to make communication more meaningful and efficient.

This is where people analytics comes in. This data-driven method of studying people, including their behavior, communication styles, skills, and challenges is the solution to improve communication and to achieve business success.

With such analytics, we can understand how people absorb knowledge, what their style of communication is, and how they like to be reached out to. Understanding these factors can reduce the likelihood of conflict between employees, helping them improve communication.

With people analytics now being more predictive rather than prescriptive, co-workers can make use of this information to be better prepared for diversity in the workplace and be proactive about their communication rather than reactive.

3. Compassion goes deeper than an inspirational quote

One of the best ways to improve communication, in my opinion, is to be compassionate.

You might not know what others are going through on a daily basis. They may be mourning the death of a loved one, struggling with the sickness of another or finding it difficult to work at home while homeschooling a rowdy pre-teen.

Sometimes, it’s impossible to know all these things. That’s why being compassionate is important – you give others the benefit of the doubt and make it easier for them to focus on work while the harder parts of life go by.

Even if your colleagues aren’t adept at handling stressful situations, being compassionate will improve your communication and coordination to a great extent.

4. Transparency is the best way to improve communication during WFH

We improve communication with each other when we take the time to find out more about ourselves and the people we work with.

Understanding people’s behavior and personalities – particularly in terms of how they respond, the best way to explain something to them, how resilient they are in a crisis, and what their struggles are during WFH – might be the best way to improve communication and thereby reduce lapses in service delivery.

With Wired2Perform, this is exactly what we help you achieve with our cutting-edge DNA behavior insights.

Author: Raghu Misra