WFH: Tips for Communicating Effectively

Emily Gulbransen April 3, 2020

With the onset of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, many of us are facing unprecedented challenges both at work and at home. One of those challenges includes working remotely—often for the first time—which requires not just a shift in behavior and routine, but also a change in mindset.

Working from home can often feel like you are isolated from the rest of your team and make it more challenging to work collaboratively. The lack of face-time with your fellow teammates can also have unintended consequences.

The way our brains interpret conversations relies heavily on body language and tone of voice. These two components of human communication make up 93 percent of the way we interpret a situation. This leaves just seven percent of the way we interpret a situation to the words that are actually said.

Components of human communication according to Professor Albert Mehrabian

With the majority of communication now occurring over email and online chats, that leaves a lot of room for our brains to fill in the gap and skew the way we interpret what’s being said. This can cause confusion or frustration as our brains apply unintended meanings to conversations, and it can exacerbate existing challenges with our teammates.

How do we get around this when we can’t physically be in the office? 

The Arbinger Institute recently launched a webinar series on how to improve communication and have a more positive, outward-focused mindset toward our teammates during this crisis. Some of their recommendations are below:

Having a meeting? Make it a video chat. 

This will provide helpful context to accurately interpret the situation. If you can’t do a video call, do a phone call. Opt for as much personal connection as possible to improve communication and understanding.

Learn more about your teammates.

Have virtual coffees with your fellow teammates to catch up and truly listen to them. Remember that many of your colleagues are also feeling isolated and anxious, so this is a great time to learn more about how you can help them during this time. This will make sure you are communicating with them from a place of empathy and understanding moving forward.

Frustrated by an email? Focus on the facts.

If you feel frustrated, anxious, upset, etc. after you receive an email from a team member, try taking a step back. Write down what the facts of the situation are vs. what you assumed from the communication. The facts are purely what is written in the email. The assumptions are everything else. By doing this, you’ll realize just how much of the communication your brain has implied. Focus on the facts of the situation and react to those, instead of getting caught up in why someone said something the way they did.

Find opportunities to appreciate others.

A lot of people who work remotely, feel under-appreciated and do not get a lot of feedback either positive or negative, so find as many opportunities as possible to show your appreciation toward your colleagues. This will help others feel more motivated and connected to the workplace, even though they are not physically in the office. 

Here at NJI, we’ve added things like virtual coffees, happy hours, and even cooking classes to get to know each other better and ensure that everyone feels connected during this time. 

Find out more ways you can stay connected by listening to the Arbinger Institute series on humanizing communication.

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