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How we collaborate with colleagues has changed drastically in 2020.

For most of us, it’s been six months since online meetings replaced the intimacy of face-to-face.

Those still able to meet in person are presented with communication barriers such as social-distancing and face masks.

And that matters.

Consider the importance of non-verbal communication and the challenges its absence presents in an online world.

Communication is:

55% body language
38% tone of voice
7% words spoken

What happens when body language and facial expressions are removed from a conversation?

We’ve all experienced it.

Think about a time you’ve received a text message or email that left you questioning the writer’s true intention. The words were clear enough, but were they sincere or sarcastic, discourteous or just direct?

Without witnessing or feeling the emotion behind the message, we’re only guessing. That can be dangerous when interpreting messages.

In online meetings, the opportunity to provide psychological safety and trust between participants is diminished. The intuitive detection of non-verbal social cues is blurred. Body posture interpretation is non-existent.

So, what can we do to make the best of an online meeting? How do we build trust, encourage vulnerability, and create a virtual environment where people can raise concerns and express ideas without fear of repercussion?

The good news is that online meeting platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams offer some simple but effective tools to help.

Polling functions give team members an opportunity to be heard anonymously. They allow managers and leaders to understand the overall ‘vibe’ of the group on a particular issue.

Chat functions also allow team members to have their say and keep the conversation moving.

Using these platforms to their full capacity can even be more beneficial than in-person meetings, particularly for teams with naturally introverted members.

Encouraging the use of polling and chat gives them a voice.

At Resilience Builders, we’ve noticed as our ‘Coping With Crisis’ webinar series sessions unfold, clients are opening up more, sharing their concerns and vulnerabilities.

This freedom of expression gives the organisation the chance to address issues and concerns. And what happens when that happens? Connection and productivity goes up.

The more we meet online the more positives present themselves. Only time will tell if virtual meetings can truly replace sharing a room with your team.

David Buttifant is a Doctor in Exercise Physiology and director of Resilience Builders.

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