Communicating Virtually: Five Challenges Addressed

Jan 16, 2019 | Collaboration

How the Webex suite of products meets your virtual communication needs.

Tools to communicate are being developed and enhanced on a daily basis. Day-in and out, we use email, text, social media for groups, a document sharing site, and videoconferencing. As an employee tries to utilize the best technology for the task at hand, the task might morph, and a different platform might be sought throughout the life cycle of the task. Every time the platform shifts, there’s the risk of that thread of communication being cut. You search your text to find contact information, move to your email and search the thread for lengthier project information, share a document to the document sharing site, then hop on a video conference to explain it all. When work performance depends on how people use technology, it stands to reason that having too many tools can make work harder, not easier. All these communication platforms serve a purpose, but then it is up to the user to determine which method of communication best suits the task. Technology should be built in a way that works the way we do, it should be a vessel that is able to adjust to our collaboration effort, and not get in the way or waste time. When a platform like Webex pulls multiple communication methods together, the technology can enhance collaboration instead of hindering it.

We recently saw an article written by the MIT Sloan Management Review on Five Ways to Improve Communication in Virtual Teams where they listed the following five behaviors to better communication:

  1. Match the technology to the task.
  2. Make intentions clear.
  3. Stay in sync.
  4. Be responsive and supportive.
  5. Be open and inclusive.

We wanted to see how, as a virtual team here at Meet Me In The Cloud, our ability to communicate virtually matched up to these five recommendations, and we wanted to give you a peek into how we use the Webex suite to address some of the challenges of working virtually.

Our team is spread out across North America, when they are not traveling, and some of us enjoy working out of our home offices. Our clients are spread out across multiple time-zones (and sometimes continents)! Like most companies, a lot of our communication occurs in scheduled meetings, but because of the nature of our team and work, much of our collaboration happens on the fly- especially during engagements.

Challenge #1:  Matching the technology to the task.

The article states that leaner, text-based media such as email, chat, and bulletin boards should be used when communication is one-way, where videoconferencing tools should be used for richer forms of communication.

Webex Teams is our tool of choice whether we need to send off a quick message to one person, gather a group together, setup bulletin style communication, share a file, or hop on a quick face-to-face call. For us, Webex Teams is really a collaboration toolbox; and that makes it so much easier to determine what tool to use because however we need to communicate, we can do it in Teams.

Challenge #2:  Make intentions clear.

One of the most difficult parts of working virtually is that much of the communication is text-based. People write things that they wouldn’t tend to say in person. As the article suggests, this leaves a lot of what is said up for interpretation and usually it is received negatively, especially when so much of communication is non-verbal. Emoticons & emojis can help to augment the spirit of the message, but there’s no substitute for being face-to-face.

Webex Teams makes it simple to add those emoticons to your messages, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, a GIF is even better! And even better, ask if your teammate has a moment, and press the call button. Voilà – you’re on a video call together, regardless of what device you’re using, or where you are in the world.

Our team has saved precious time by hopping on a two-minute call to clarify project details, instead of sending a lengthy email and waiting for a response.

Challenge #3: Stay in sync.

As the article states, it is important to interact face-to-face for a couple of reasons. One is that it is difficult to tell when messages have been received or read. Another is that there’s the risk of team members being left out of the loop when a lot of collaboration tools are in play- we see this often just in sprawling email chains!

Webex Teams allows us to see when our co-workers are online, when they are busy in a meeting, or when they are out of the office. Read receipts let us know who in a space has seen the latest message. The Teams platform makes it easy to reply quickly even if it’s to let colleagues know we will get back to them soon. Teams can be created based on project, task, etc. so nobody is ever missed or left out. The persistent nature of spaces means that they don’t even need to be “online” to send them a message- they’ll see it as soon as they open the app again.

Challenge #4: Be responsive and supportive.

The article also notes one of the cruxes of dispersed teams- trust is crucial to effective teamwork, but it’s much harder to develop. The key is building habits of responsive and supportive communication that is timely and appropriate. Everyone should make extra effort to respond quickly, and with an effective response. During onboarding, employees should be made aware of the challenges remote employees and teams face. This will help the team build effective collaboration tactics and help them succeed together regardless of location. Helping onboard those new team members using Webex will both save on travel costs, and give them a running start on using them to collaborate virtually!

Challenge #5:  Be open and inclusive

Remote teams can span different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. Be cognizant of the diversity your team brings and think of ways to help the team feel closer together, despite geographic distances. We’ve found that by building a video-centric working culture, you’re similarly able to build an inclusive team culture.

After working virtually for 8 years, we like to think we have the expertise to help other dispersed teams work best together! To learn more about how you can implement the Webex product suite to better your communication contact sales@meetmeinthecloud.com.

Frustrated with your cloud collaboration tools?

Meet Me in the Cloud can turn your digital collaboration tools into productivity engines. At any point in your collaboration journey, we partner with you to fully adopt your preferred technology tools. We also offer customized training as well as virtual event assistance. We know more than just technology. It’s important to us that people fully leverage technology to empower themselves. To get started, contact our experts today.

Do you need help with your digital collaboration tools to maximize productivity? Meet Me in the Cloud helps your business properly use collaboration tools, like Zoom, Webex, and Teams, and empowers your employees to embrace cloud-based technology.

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