By Gayatri Chopra, Account Executive
The term “work from home” has taken on a new meaning since most of the country went into quarantine in March amid the coronavirus pandemic. With so many changes in what “business as usual” means, a new set of challenges has become apparent: communication. Conversations and presentations with clients or coworkers have new barriers ranging from computer screens to face masks. To combat these unusual barriers, here are 5 simple steps professionals can take to improve communication in the coronavirus era.
1. Be intentional with nonverbal communication
Around 70-93% of all communication is nonverbal, which includes things like vocal tone, hand gestures, facial expressions, body posture, and eye contact. An accidental yawn over a video conference or a simple slouch in an office chair could be all it takes for a client or coworker to think you aren’t engaging with them.
2. Ensure you’re actively listening
Active listening involves both acknowledging and reacting to what someone is saying. This can happen in many ways, including nodding, smiling over video conferencing, or arching your eyebrows when you’re wearing a face mask. Active listening reassures the person speaking that you are paying attention and processing what they are saying.
3. Be clear and concise with your information
If you’re worried about zoning out during someone else’s presentation, you should be worried about the same thing happening during yours. Ensure that you’re presenting information in terms your audience will understand, and try not to overload them. Our attention spans are rapidly decreasing as the internet booms, so use short bulleted phrases to present information in order to keep your audience engaged.
4. Maintain professionalism
If you’re working in an office environment, it’s likely the only change in dress code is the addition of a face mask. If you’re still working from home, your appearance still matters on camera, but so do your surroundings. Make sure the device you’re video conferencing with is on a flat surface to reduce excessive movement, and keep a steady light source in front of you rather than sitting in front of one, as a backlight source can fluctuate on camera. Additionally, ensure that any virtual backgrounds are solid and neutral colors, and only use one if it is absolutely necessary. If you’re wearing a face mask, make sure it is appropriate and professional as well.
(Photo courtesy of Workest)
5. Be understanding of unusual circumstances
Navigating work in a global pandemic is still relatively new, so make sure to give people a break once in a while. It is natural for someone to make a misstep, but there are mitigating circumstances at play as well, and that is important to remember. One mistake does not define someone’s dedication to a job or their work ethic, and getting angry won’t help the situation. Remember how you’d want someone to react if you made a mistake.