Making Virtual Work
How familiar is this view? More of us, no matter our occupation, or whether we are retired, or even struggling with finding our first or next job, are now familiar with online video connections with one or more people.
How many of us are comfortable with it? Most of the people I've talked with who have actually used it are saying it was a good experience. It's those who haven't tried it, or had one bad experience, who have told me they just don't like it.
It could be that those of us who like it, just really need an alternative to not being able to see others face to face anymore. We need those connections, even if it is by video only!
I have been working in a virtual environment since around 2009. At that time I was asked to conduct webinars for managers. That concept was new at the time, but necessary for a company that was spread across the globe and wanted a consistent experience for its managers. I also did more and more of my project work with clients by conference calls, rather than travel, since at that time the economy was still in recovery mode from 2008.
I have to admit that working virtually forced me to find ways to connect with others, sometimes only by voice, and sometimes without having ever met them face to face. So long before Zoom was a household name, I was finding ways to build relationships with people I'd never met face to face, and then communicate effectively, get work done, and help them learn, only by voice.
Here are a few things I learned:
Get into the right mindset. Be ready to be fully present. Without visual cues - if you're not on video - you need to be in the moment - listening, responding and asking questions. Your thinking brain has to be ready. So make sure you have prepared yourself enough to be comfortable and be able to focus.
Speak as if you're there with the person. Use inflection, smile, laugh, use hand gestures. Stand up and walk around if you can. Visualize the other person if they are not on screen, so you can better direct your attention to them.
Don't hesitate to clarify. My favorite phrases are "I want to make sure I understand correctly..." "I may have missed something you said." "I want to make sure I got this right."
Ask questions to involve others. There are so many questions to ask beyond "How are you today?", like "What was your favorite thing/most surprising thing/biggest accomplishment from this week?" "What are you looking forward to next week?". Or, to ensure others have understood, "What have I said that you would like clarification about?"
Of course, these days, we almost always have video available. So if you choose to use your video, and I recommend that you do so you can better connect with others, here are a few additional tips, remembering to use those above too:
Make eye contact. I know that might sound strange, but looking right at your camera while you're interacting gives that personal feel to those on the other side of the camera.
Smile and use hand gestures. Have fun! Be passionate about speaking with others. Let your personality - and hopefully - enthusiasm - show.
Go ahead, drink your coffee or water. Some people don't want to take a sip of water or coffee if they are on video; would you do that if you were in a meeting face to face? You probably would, so go ahead. Maybe even have that donut too! As long as you're polite as you would be face to face then it brings a feeling of normalcy to the virtual arena.
Unfortunately, it seems that we will be living in this virtual space for a while. But we don't have to let this current situation keep us from connecting, building relationships and getting work done! If you want more tips, or help in problem-solving with your virtual workspace, let me know. I'd be happy to hop on a Zoom call and connect with you!