Virtual meetings are here for good.

Gone are the days of ordinary human encounters and ordinary conversations. We already have the technology – FaceTime, video conferencing, Slack, MS Teams, (of course), and many other tools and services that make simultaneous and asynchronous meetings and communication simple and easy.

We now live in a world of choice, a place where “hybrid” is the new norm. In this article, we will share some secrets of managing virtual meetings and more generally many forms of remote communication. Finally, we will provide definitions as well as discuss the benefits and advantages.

But first, let’s define remote communication.

What exactly is remote communication?

Remote communication is when one interacts with others remotely through electronic devices that allow you to communicate with people outside of personal communication. It is also called virtual communication and has become an essential part of the business world – especially since COVID. 

Advantages of virtual meetings and remote communication

Remote work is growing in popularity around the world. A recent Gallup survey found that two-thirds of white-collar workers (67%) say they work from home or alone (41%) or for several hours (26%). This conversion is usually positive:

Virtual communication technology not only speeds up networking, but research has also shown that employees can increase performance by up to 4.4% after they are out of work.

While the benefits are well documented, some managers prefer personal communication to virtual correspondence. There are many reasons. Some people don’t want to send text messages over and over again, others are just used to personal communication.

Wherever you stand in a personal, distance, hybrid model, there are pros and cons for everyone. 

We will address the disadvantages, but first, let’s share some positive aspects of virtual meetings and remote communication in general:

1. Improved flexibility: 

Virtual communication tools make it easier for teams to communicate across time zones. With messenger services, you don’t have to wait for a team member on the other side of the world to send you important information.

2. Convenience: 

When meeting remotely, you don’t have to deal with finding a meeting place. People can communicate anywhere using their computer or mobile device (and internet connection), making it easy to hold unscheduled team meetings. There are even video chat applications (most of which are now standard features of these means of communication), so people who can’t attend can also see what’s being discussed in team meetings.

3. Easy to stay connected: 

Connecting with a teammate, supervisor, or external employee is never easy. If you need to ask a quick question or send a document to a colleague, you can link them by clicking the button (or highlighting them directly in Work OS).

4. Purpose: 

When working remotely, all interactions are deliberate, avoiding office politics and the disruptive conversations that often occur in the physical workspace.

5. On-the-record: 

Unlike impromptu discussions, virtual communication stores all interactions in the record, so you can go back at any time to see if you made a mistake. 

6. More inclusive: If you are no longer tied to physical space, there is an opportunity to involve many people from all over the world. It also helps with virtual events (more common since March 2020).

Disadvantages / challenges

It’s not all unicorns and rainbows (and rainbow-colored unicorns). Here are some negatives – with some solutions:

1. Minority: 

While many fear a lack of communication in a remote workplace environment, we see a problem in COVID being overweight in virtual meetings and what is now called “video conferencing fatigue.” Stanford researchers have identified four causes of this “zoom fatigue” and shared some fixes in this blog post.

2. Reduced productivity: 

The Wundamail Work from Home 2020 report concludes that more than half of its participants hope to have fewer virtual meetings to achieve longer hours of continuous work. Good News? While the motivation for “excessive communication” when working remotely is completely understandable, you can usually easily reduce excess at a meeting. 

3. Challenges of staying connected: 

One of the biggest disadvantages of remote communication is human error. Except when teams maintain regular communication through regular meetings and check-in, employees may retreat and productivity may begin to suffer.

4. Other distractions: 

Remote communication devices can be very disruptive. Frequent congestion of business emails and chat groups can hurt productivity.

5. Technical difficulties: 

Remote communication depends on the technology. Hardware damage or loss of service can disrupt communication lines for a long time. And Google may (and sometimes may) like Slack and most other technologies. Oh, and don’t forget the background noise – the dogs are barking, the kids are talking, the delivery service is ringing the bells, and so on.

6. Lack of non-verbal indicators: 

Even in video chats, body language and mood are not always fully interpreted. It is important to realize this and make a special effort to express feelings.

7. Low employee intimacy: 

It is difficult – though not impossible – to build a relationship, especially with new employees. Virtual does not mean coffee breaks or a place with cold water. This can be solved by opening chat groups only for informal chatting, such as photos of food, poisons, and … cat memes.

8. Easier to hide: 

If you’re virtual, it’s easier to hide – turn off your video! A lot of communication is non-verbal (I mean: body language), so if you don’t see someone, you probably don’t understand how they feel.

Virtual meetings and remote communication certainly have their drawbacks, but most problems can be overcome by thinking ahead.

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