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Three-quarters of face-to-face communication is non-verbal. Think of body language, facial expressions and hand gestures. But over the past year, many businesses have shifted to virtual work and meeting face-to-face is not as common anymore. Take a look at the following tips for practicing effective communication in today’s virtual world.

  1. Create an agenda. Having a meeting agenda is more important now than ever. Virtual meetings can be all over the place without proper structure. It is helpful to share your screen so everyone can follow the agenda collectively. Be sure to send a recap and notes after the meeting as well.
  2. Be inclusive. Employees may feel overlooked in virtual meetings since you are not able to look them in the eye. Be sure to call on others for their opinions and include them in the conversation.
  3. Avoid interruptions. Since it is difficult to read body language virtually and be able to infer when someone is about to speak next, avoid interrupting or speaking over others by waiting for a moment of silence before you begin speaking. There is also a “raise hand” function in Zoom that is helpful.
  4. Eliminate distractions. Just as it is rude to be texting or checking emails on your phone in an in-person meeting, it is the same for virtual meetings. Keep your phone away and if there is an emergency, mute and turn off your video to handle it.
  5. Respect instant messaging. Before, employees were able to stop by the desk of a colleague to ask a quick question. Now, instant messaging has taken over this form of communication, but it can be easy to overstep boundaries. Respect when a colleague has their status set to “busy” or “do not disturb.” Try not to IM them too often and interrupt their focus.
  6. Respect meeting times. While working virtually, it’s easier to create your own schedule and work when you want to. Keep in mind that others may still want to keep their work hours the same. Avoid scheduling meetings during the lunch hour and be sure to wrap up all meetings before the end of the workday.
  7. Don’t overbook. Zoom fatigue is a real thing, and employees need down time scheduled throughout their day. Avoid scheduling back-to-back meetings if possible and give them a chance to recharge and catch up on their work.
  8. Use emojis sparingly. Emojis are a fun way to display emotions virtually, but not everyone feels the same. Keep it respectful with simple emojis or refrain from using them altogether, especially when you are unsure of how it will be received.
  9. Move to BCC. There are many instances where a colleague is CC’ed on an email for their knowledge but no longer need to be a part of the conversation. Respect their inbox by moving them to BCC when this is the case, or when you know they are on PTO.
  10. Check in on others. It can be easy to forget to check in with employees the way you used to in the break room. Since virtual work meetings strictly follow an agenda to respect everyone’s time, remember to set aside separate time to reach out to colleagues and continue to build rapport.

Lisa Lovallo is the Southern Arizona market vice president for Cox Communications, leading a team of 250+ Southern Arizona Cox employees. Prior to joining the Cox Southern Arizona team, Lisa ran a family business based in Tucson and is a graduate of the University of Arizona. Reach her at lisa.lovallo@cox.com.