If you’ve worked in a physical office for most or all of your career, then the idea of digital body language may be somewhat foreign. Even so, we have both been there. Did the boss’ “k” mean they were upset in an email, or didn’t like your idea? Is an emoji eye-roll from a colleague meant brief distracting, or are they really upset?
As someone who talked about the future of business for a while and has been running a remote b2b agency for more than a decade, teaching and knowing digital body language was par for the course. Today, all of us need to learn quickly how to work, handle and communicate without in-person contact with staff and peers. And that means that digital body language is more important than it’s ever been before.
What, then, is physical body language exactly? Is this how you keep up with video calls? Do you use the emojis in group chats? How do you make yourself aware on conference calls?
It’s true that all these are interactive body language components. Those elements, along with all the other various small details of how we communicate — whether on the web, via a messaging app like Slack, on videochat, or through email — are what generates our digital body language.And our digital body language is critical for establishing and maintaining good rapport, contributing to high morale, and just generally creating a positive work environment for everyone at the company.
Digital body language basics: For employees
If your workplace has transitioned to remote work as part of the coronavirus response, then digital body language is a way to maintain and build upon the connection you already have with your co-workers.
- Turning on your camera during video chats, instead of sticking to voice only.
- Speaking confidently and clearly on conference calls.
- Meeting deadlines and showing up on time for virtual meetings.
- Being friendly and present on messaging channels, without taking too much time away from work.
These are all simple, yet extremely powerful ways to convey a sense of who you are and how you work when your co-workers can’t actually see you (at least, not in person).
And a word on emojis: although at one point, they were used almost exclusively by text-happy teenagers, they’ve become an essential element of text-based communication. Everyone from the CEO on down should feel good about using them.
Digital body language basics: For managers
Remotely managing employees can be a battle even for the best managers — especially those who rely on lots of face-to – face conversations to stay connected and “take the temperature” of their teams.
One of the best ways to establish good working relationships with your remote team is to model excellent communication from the get-go.
Over-communicate, in fact — it will set a fantastic example for your team, as over-communicating is one of the keys to making a remote company efficient. This is particularly true if you suddenly transition from a traditional model of working.
The process will take time, and transparent, regular, and efficient contact is the best way to ensure that issues that should usually have been addressed by a face-to – face interaction will not slip through the cracks.
Certain strategies to maintain a good relationship with the staff include arranging time for one-on-one meetings and checking in with them at least every couple of days in a low-pressure, friendly manner.
Remember, you can’t stop by their desk to ask them how their day is going anymore. You’ve got to find other ways to show that you’re invested in them.
Perhaps the toughest thing for people who are more used to shouting away from each other is to hit the right tone in instant messages, emails, texts, and other forms of written online communication. That’s because if it’s not delivered in the proper manner, a simple request to speak with an employee can send them into a cold sweat.
Do you simply want to see how their day is going? Make sure they know that right away–add a smiling emoji, or a waving hand, and make the casual nature of the conversation known.
In these tough times, when so many people have already lost their jobs or suffered some sales loss, you’ll want to be even more considerate of this point. There is confusion everywhere and workers can be far more likely to leap to negative conclusions than they would otherwise be.
So how is your digital body language?
Check out my related post: Do you trust everything you read and see on media?