Five Rules for Virtual Communication by Julia Zavileyskaya
Of the 18 years I’ve been working in DataArt, 11 of those have been in a very widely distributed team. Online meetups for 14 different offices in seven different countries is the norm for us.
My average workday, besides all the various E-mail messaging I do, consists of three to seven online meetings with colleagues from various cities. This doesn’t even include the spur-of-the-moment questions I get and resolve online through the course of the day. Here are my top five rules for virtual communication, and I’m looking forward to hearing your own rules too.
My mantra is, it doesn’t matter which communications channel you use — you’re still talking with people. So here are my top 5.
№ 1. Use video as much as possible
I know how strange and ridiculous it can seem at first to talk with someone over video (or at least that’s the way it felt to me). But you get used to it fast. Seeing a person, and their reaction, and having the opportunity to supplement words using facial expressions is priceless. This kind of communication leads to better understanding, and lowers the risk that you will be misunderstood.
№ 2. No multitasking
If we’re at a distributed meeting, we turn on the camera and we don’t go multitasking. When you multitask in a meeting, you’re showing a lack of respect to the other people in the meeting. Nobody would ever think of writing to someone else while sitting face to face listening to a person speak at a meeting (although I have actually seen that a couple times). But I’ve seen deviations in online communication: writing to someone else and laughing to what they write back, or even worse, when there are more than two people taking part in the call, one person is speaking, and two or more others are writing to each other and laughing while the first person is speaking about something else entirely. We never do such a thing. People like attention, and such ill manners can make others take offense and stop talking to you.
№ 3. Microphone and sound
We check our headsets. There’s nothing better than our colleagues not just seeing us, but hearing us as well. If your colleague has a problem with their sound, let them know about it, so that they can adjust it right away, or at least before their next call.
№ 4. The backdrop space
If we’re working from out of the office, let’s say, from home, we double check the area that our colleagues will see behind our backs during the call. It’s better to close the door of the closet with your underwear pouring out, and to shift your workspace away from the sink full of dirty dishes.
№ 5. Don’t make people wait
If people in the company you’re working with like to use Skype or any other messenger, we write in complete sentences. Don’t just use phrases like “hi” and then wait for the other person to write “hi” back. Don’t make the person you’re communicating with wait impatiently after the word “hi” for the “writing…” cue to be over. People are generally polite, but there’s no guarantee that this person will still want to speak to you after waiting a long time.
Now that you know my rules, please tell me your own does and don’ts in the comments below. After all, there’s no limit to perfection. Share this with those people who you’d like to give a hint to. Let’s improve communications in this world.