6 ways to improve communication in virtual teams

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A man participating in a video call, gesturing at his computer screen

Do you know what the underlying cause for most workplace failures is? 86% of employees and corporate executives attribute it to ineffective communication. 

But investing in good communication doesn't only prevent failure. It allows the team to make better, data-based decisions. Communication drives engagement, a sense of trust, and respect for the organization's values. Keeping everyone involved and updated also helps to solve problems quickly and gives a floor to share their ideas freely. 

In other words, communication is a basis for a successful team, especially if its members work remotely. When face-to-face interactions with colleagues are limited, it's important to bring everyone together. 

In this article, we introduce the six best ways to keep your virtual team's communication on point.

Make up for the loss of non-verbal cues

Effective communication has one essential component – body language. According to Professor Albert Mehrabian, people convey 55% of their messages via non-verbal cues. 

When we speak, our hand gestures, posture, leg movements, and facial expressions help to send our thoughts across. However, most of this non-verbal information can be lost during a video-conference. For instance, if the camera is too close to our faces, it restricts the ability to see our gestures. Also, the self-view square may make some of us refrain from making facial expressions. 

If you noticed a loss of non-verbal communication in your team's meetings, here are some things you can do. 

Don't stop gesturing. Our hand gestures have the power to keep our team members engaged. They can make our presentations seem more energetic and bring attention to the most important points. So, don't stop gesturing, but make sure your colleagues can see your movements. A simple trick of placing your camera a bit further away or slightly lifting it will capture more of your body. 

Experiment with standing up during meetings. Most of our meetings are held while everyone sits down, so why not stand up sometimes? It increases our mobility and provides us with space to be more expressive with our bodies. 

Standing desks are perfect for this, but if you're not equipped with one, you can experiment with your environment. Maybe you can place your camera on a shelf to keep it at your eye level? Or you can try lifting it by placing it on a pile of books.

Switching up between sitting and standing during the workday can also be good for our bodies. According to research, sitting for long periods can increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Be reactive. In addition to hand gestures, you can use several other non-verbal cues. Nodding, smiling, and making eye contact will let the speaker know that you're listening. 

Make eye contact. It can be tricky to do during a video-conference because you would have to look directly at the camera. This way, you can miss the information shared on the screen. However, making constant eye contact is unnecessary. Instead, find the most suitable and comfortable moments. For instance, try looking at the camera for a brief second when it's your turn to speak or before giving the word to somebody else.

Be aware of your posture. You may be slouching because your chair is uncomfortable or because you're feeling tired, but your team may not be aware of it. Instead, slouching may be perceived negatively. It may seem that you're bored, disinterested, and unfocused. Simply sitting up straight and leaning forward a bit can channel opposite emotions. 

Ask clarifying questions. To provide more clarity for the whole team, ask additional questions that help the speaker summarize their thoughts. Questions such as "What do you mean…" or "Are you saying that.." will help to reinforce the speaker's idea and avoid ambiguities. 

Observe how each team member communicates

Not everyone feels comfortable during meetings, especially virtual ones. Some people can even experience a specific virtual meeting-related tiredness called Zoom fatigue. That's why it's essential to observe how your team members communicate during meetings. 

For instance, some participants in your team may not be engaging frequently and always keep their cameras off. These may be the signs that a person feels uncomfortable during the virtual meetings or feels disconnected from the rest of the team. 

Closely observing these cues will allow you to notice budding problems within your team and will enable you to address them accordingly. 

Try to compensate for lost water cooler chats

When we work on-site, we can have many opportunities to connect with our team. Do you remember discussing weekend plans in the breakroom? Or sharing moments from your holiday while making coffee? Virtual teams often miss out on the conversations. 

Studies have shown that having a close relationship within a team can improve performance. Also, increasing team communication can reduce the isolation some of us feel while working remotely. So why not bring back the water cooler chats to your virtual breakroom? 

Here are a few tips on how to do that:

  • Create a downtime channel. It can hold conversations on anything your team members are interested in, such as hobbies, world affairs, or sports. 
  • Dedicate 10 or 5 minutes of each meeting for personal topics. Ask your colleagues about their weekend plans or the films they recently watched.
  • Plan team-building activities. Who says that you have to gather on-site to have a team building? The virtual environment could work just as well. Bring your team together for trivia nights or wine tasting, and don't forget to bring your good mood!
  • Coffee breaks. Plan a video-meeting dedicated to drinking coffee and chatting. You can also catch up while eating lunch or snacks virtually. 

We’ve also shared some icebreakers and energizers for remote meetings in our blog post – check it out for more ideas. 

Demonstrate recognition and appreciation

When we work virtually, it may feel much harder to be noticed for the hard work. Thus, it's a task of a team leader to make sure that the rest of the team feels appreciated for achieved goals and contributions. 

Incorporating more appreciation and gratitude into your virtual team's routine is easy. According to a survey, 85% of employees say that a simple "thank you" for their efforts is enough. So why not take some time during your meetings to thank your team for the goals they achieved that week?

This simple act of gratitude can boost engagement work satisfaction and increase retention. It also serves as valuable feedback for the team. 

Make sure that all meetings have a clear purpose

Before you book a time slot for a meeting in your team's calendar, take a moment to consider why you need this meeting. When a team works remotely, it's easy to get carried away with meetings. After all, it's one of the most comfortable ways to get in touch. However, too many meetings can be overwhelming, and the lack of a clear purpose can make the meeting feel like a waste of time. 

To avoid this, detail the focus of each meeting. Do you need to discuss specific results, or do you have a problem to solve? List goals and expectations and present the meeting agenda to your team in advance. 

Then think about the medium. Call or email your colleagues instead of setting up a video-conference when possible. 

Finally, consider who will participate in the meeting and why you need them there. And, of course, make sure to consider the different time zones if you work in an international team. 

Implement the right tools 

Virtual teams rely on various tools and software to foster communication. That's why only having an emailing service is not enough. 

The best communication software has these key functions:

  • Integration. If you're using many different tools, the ability to integrate them with each other comes in handy.
  • Easy setup. Onboarding new people can be a challenge, especially if newcomers aren't familiar with the tools your organization prefers. Virtual teams should focus on picking the tools that have a fast and easy setup. 
  • Scalability. The best tools allow you to grow and shrink your team when needed quickly. 
  • Designed for remote work. If your team members come from various parts of the world, focus on software that has minimal requirements. Good tools allow users to connect no matter where they live and what device they are using.
  • Security. Cyberattacks happen often, so it's vital to choose the tool that implements sophisticated security measures
  • Client-focused. Pick tools that have fast and efficient customer support – this way, technical issues won’t compromise your workflow.
Infographic on ways to improve communication in virtual teams

6 ways to improve communication in virtual teams

How Interactio can improve communication in your virtual team

Multilingual teams may seem like a breeding ground for communication issues. But the truth is, you don't have to speak the same language to understand each other. 

“How come?” you may ask. With the help of a professional interpreter, who makes sure no language barriers are in place. In real-time. 

If it’s a business meeting – an interpreter can help you negotiate, present ideas, and share knowledge in any language your team prefers. So, bringing an interpreter to a meeting would not only improve communication but also help to achieve better business meeting outcomes.

However, hiring an interpreter can be a challenge. You will need to assess their qualifications and find a suitable platform. Spoiler alert: using a random video-conferencing platform may compromise the quality! But don't worry, we are here to help. At Interactio, we connect teams from different linguistic backgrounds by offering top-notch interpreting services. 

We gathered a highly qualified community of interpreters trained to use our remote simultaneous interpretation platform. On top of that, our in-house technical support is readily available during each meeting. 

Our platform combines the functionalities necessary for an effective video-conferencing platform. You can send messages in the chat, share files, present your screen – all while listening to the interpretation in any language, even the rarest ones! 

Are you ready to improve communication in your virtual team? 

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Published on

Jan 31, 2022

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