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As we all continue to adapt to our remote workplace in 2021, coaches find that our clients confide worries and challenges about virtual meetings to us.
So, meeting leaders, here are easy ways to enhance your team’s morale and productivity :
- Give them a break. Some team members feel like it’s a luxury to visit their own bathroom or grab a yogurt, as close as they may be. Encourage 15-minute breaks every ninety minutes or two hours and discourage back to back meetings. Speaking of meetings…
- Make it easy to ask questions. Team members miss informal chatter, laughs, and learning from others just by hanging out. One financial analyst shared that he avoids asking his manager a simple question since it seems “so formal” to schedule a call.
- Remember that fun builds trust. Make time for rituals and some crazy moments. Getting those positive hormones going is bonding—and bonding builds morale. Back in November, I asked a bank CIO to share the highlight of his past week. The enthusiasm in his voice and body language was better than ever when he shared that he organized a Halloween costume contest. This C- Suite Dracula had forty team members enter with just a day’s notice.
Studies show that loneliness is becoming an increasingly common physical and mental health concern for which remote workers are acutely at risk. With coronavirus forcing employees into 100% work from home (WFH) guidelines, and in some cases, complete shelter in place restrictions, workplace loneliness is at an all-time high.
Understandably, employees who are used to seeing each other every day are especially feeling this disconnect. And, with coffee shops and restaurants closed, remote employees who were always 100% remote no longer have their routines those routines.
Employees converting to a remote role are afraid that they won’t get the social stimulation they need to stay motivated and engaged at work. Working from home can lead to endless distractions. Work productivity can be sluggish and fragmented. At most companies, the work they did has slipped away, or they are unable to generate new sales or profits. All of this adds up to be a strain and a sense of isolation.
As an Executive Communication Coach who specializes in Effective Remote Communication at The Speech Improvement Company, I am offering a few of our newest tips to help conquer remote work loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Bet on the weather. This idea is fun and costs nothing to roll out. To be clear, gambling at most places of work is illegal, so it’s best to keep this a light and fun activity with no actual money at stake. (Think a March Madness type pool but renamed March Sadness!) Perhaps the winner can gather donations to their favorite charity or bragging rights for six months. Maybe they get a paid day off on their birthday. Any prize helps it feel more exciting. To bet on the weather, it can be elaborate or straightforward. Commit to a few cities to bet on, commit to how you will bet – by temperature, by an icon on an app, by weather activity (rain, thunder, fog, partly sunny), or any parameter you like. This could be a one-time event on a Friday afternoon meeting or a weekly event. Even with prizes that have no monetary value, you are creating a new sense of fun and friendly competition.
2. Set up a remote lunch meeting with a surprise guest. Have one person on the team volunteer to bring in a special guest to a lunchtime meeting – their pet, child, friend, neighbor, or anyone who would be willing to pop on the video call for a few minutes. If they can access the meeting link remotely, anyone in the world can be your Surprise Guest, like your parents or spin class instructor and, is a fantastic way to get to know your team members and shake up the monotony of meetings.
3. Plan a company-wide talent show on a Friday afternoon. Invite anyone and everyone who would like to take part – your spouse, partner, dog, bunny, child, or yourself. Let family members in your home tune in as well. After all the performances are complete, use a poll or chat feature to determine the top three winners of the talent show. Winners will receive a prize with no monetary value like a royal background on the next four video calls, or a crown mailed to them that was handmade by a fellow team member.
4. Send a handwritten letter to a team member. When permission has been given, list all team members’ names and home addresses alphabetically in an Excel document. Everyone writes a handwritten letter to the person under them on the list. If this is not appropriate in your organization because home addresses are private, handwrite the letter, take a picture of it, and send it electronically via email or IM. While the idea of pen pals has long been forgotten, the concept of receiving a handwritten note is still a lot of fun.
5. Host a weekly live edition of “Lifestyles of the Bored and Quarantined.” Have one team member walk around their house for 10 minutes before a team call to give their team a virtual tour. What they share is up to them, but ideas include pets, plants, kids, favorite rooms of the house, the backyard, or wildlife. These meetings are a fantastic no-cost way to get to know each other more and create stronger remote team bonds.
These WFH ideas are fresh off the press and just in time for the continued social isolation and mandatory work from home policies. We expect all team meetings will be remote meetings for at least a few more weeks, possibly much longer. Use these tips to combat loneliness, strengthen your remote team bond, and have a sense of playfulness during this time of fear and the unknown. Remember, you can depend on your team to help get you through these times, even if you are not in the same office, city, or country.
While this post offers fun and playful ideas, remote work loneliness can be serious and upsetting. We encourage you to talk to someone about it – a boss, teammate, spouse, or friend online. When you open up and share what you’re feeling, you give someone the chance to support you, and, in return, you hear how others might be feeling as well. Once you’ve talked to someone about your feelings, you can more effectively support each other and get the emotional support you need to keep plugging away.
Facial coverings and masks can make it difficult for some people to communicate. People who often rely on facial cues may not understand you when your face is covered, or your voice is muffled. As an Executive Coach, I have seen how it can be hard to talk to neighbors, friends, co-workers, and family while wearing a mask.
When you are wearing a face-covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, be aware that you may inadvertently create a situation where another person may no longer understand you. Remember, how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate.
Here are five tips for communicating when using face coverings and masks:
1.Use Active Body Language
Body language, hand gestures, and posture are most important. Your non-verbal cues should reflect the tone and theme of your content. Nod when appropriate to acknowledge you are listening and understanding.Focus on
2. Eye Contact
Use your eyes and eyebrows. Good eye contact is critical. Let your eyebrows tell the story. Happiness can be seen by raised eyebrows, raised cheeks, and crow’s feet. Eyebrows pinched together can sometimes convey anger or frustration, so remember that your eyebrows are part of your eye contact when wearing a mask.
3. Adjust Your Voice Tone
Your tone of voice includes your inflection, rate, and pace, which can be equally as impactful as your speaking words. Articulate loudly and clearly, without shouting.
4. Look at Alternatives
If using a mask is a serious barrier to speaking and having others understand you, consider a face shield or a see-through face mask.
5. Send a Post-Conversation Summary
Consider using a written recap of the conversation, so nothing is lost. This could mean a quick recap email, a text, a short PowerPoint deck, or a formal document that summarizes what you shared.
As we begin to wrap up 2020, let’s keep masks on and spirits up. We can do this. Thanks for helping to keep everyone safe.
Storytelling is an advanced communication tool that can build rapport, increase retention and powerfully persuade. Capturing, structuring and delivering relevant stories is an invaluable skill in business.
1) Build Rapport – Experiences are unique; however, emotions are universal. Telling a short, interesting personal story allows the listener to tap into the same emotion as the teller, creating a memorable rapport. The effectiveness depends upon expressing the relevant emotion in the story.
2) Increase Retention – How often have you been in a networking situation and found it difficult to remember someone’s name and business 30 seconds after she or he said it? Try telling a short story about your business, tapping into precisely how what you do benefits humanity. Focusing on how you benefit humanity will resonate with your listener, whom we assume is a human.
3) Persuade – Storytelling answers the question, “Why?” Telling a relatable and relevant story that answers what will happen if I do or don’t do something can be very persuasive. The listener can imagine him/herself in real-time and feel the consequences of the choice at hand when the story is told well.
There are countless ways to use storytelling as a communication tool in business. You may have noticed that relevance is the thread that runs through all three. Use storytelling to demonstrate the relevance to your listener, if you can’t do that, you should not be talking. Relationship building, making information stick, and convincing others are three of the most common ways to use this skill.
Now, in the midst of this pandemic, if you need to adjust your business narrative, how should you do that? If your business is to continue, your constituents need to know that your company is still strong and has been able to adapt to changing times. Here is food for thought and some direction for your consideration as you address this issue.
Begin by understanding that framing the story is essential. You should always answer three questions as you build your narrative:
- Where are your listeners/constituents naturally on the topic that you need to address?
- Where do you need them to be to consider the value of your message?
- What story, information, etc. can you use at the beginning, and throughout your narrative to facilitate that?
Take the time to answer these simple questions, and you will be in a significantly better position to effectively and strategically address the important issues in your narrative. These answers will also help support your need to motivate, influence, and lead in this unprecedented time.
Inquiring Communication Coach: What do you like about Zooming?
I conducted a non-scientific poll of my business clients to learn:
Top 10 Things Professionals Like About Zoom
- You can wear your PJ bottoms (just watch the camera shot).
- You can look at yourself all day, for better or worse.
- You don’t have to smell fish cooking in the microwave.
- You get to use your own bathroom.
- You can squeeze your stress ball without anyone knowing.
- You get to see an occasional baby, kid, cat, dog, or gerbil.
- You may get to hug someone between meetings—Awww!
- You can wear your most comfy decade old shoes.
- You can make coffee your way.
- Write anything YOU like (if you do) about Zooming in the comments below.
90-minute, online, interactive workshop
Thinking on Your Feet
Thursday, May 21, 2020
1:00 PM – 2:30 PM EDT
$99 per seat
THINKING ON YOUR FEET is always a strong indicator of confidence and competence. Next to controlling nervousness, it’s our most requested training topic!
Two things will happen during this 90-minute workshop:
First, you will learn specific techniques that will help you strengthen your ability to think on your feet and express your thoughts with clarity and confidence. We will teach and demonstrate these techniques in a simple and practical manner.
Second, you will practice the techniques in breakout groups. The number of participants will be limited to ensure that every participant will have ample opportunity to practice.
Yes, we are doing all this online! It promises to be an enjoyable and productive learning experience…and you’re invited!
Yet, clients using virtual audio or video conferencing say that engaging all participants, holding attention, and controlling interruptions and overlapping speakers are significant challenges.
Make sure you are incorporating these five essentials in your virtual meetings:
Dr. Dennis Becker, founder of The Speech Improvement Company, spoke on March 16 at World Speech Day. The honor of representing North America was given to him in recognition of his stature as a worldwide expert in human communication.
World Speech Day is a day to celebrate speeches and speechmaking that change the world – socially, politically, in the arts, business, and religion. This is their fifth year and featured a Master Class of speakers from 120+ countries delivering speeches and taking questions from viewers and listeners. This year’s theme was Classical Rhetoric and its Effect on Contemporary Communication.
Dennis’ 15-minute live-streamed speech was entitled “Aristotle’s Patterns of Reasoning.” He took this 3,000-year-old content and showed its use and value in today’s world. Of course, his comfortable and “shirtsleeve” English style benefitted viewers and listeners across the globe.