Avoid Remote Communication Breakdown

Here’s how one channel leader stays connected in the new digital, WFH normal.

Communication in the workplace has changed, with most companies either operating with an entire remote workforce or perhaps bringing some folks into the office in a hybrid setup. The lack of face-to-face interaction can be challenging, especially for colleagues who are used to in-person communication – and channel professionals heavily reliant on face-to-face interactions to build relationships. From everyday banter that connects workers on a personal level to mission-critical communications essential for getting work done, how can you stay connected to your teams and partners as remote work continues?

For many channel partners, digital tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Slack are replacing in-person meetings with a mixed bag of results. It seems that face time (as in actual face-to-face communication, not the iPhone feature) plays a more significant role than we realize in effectively getting our message across. For example, did you know that people receive as much as 93 percent of communication through non-verbal cues like body language and facial expressions?

The disconnect associated with remote communication can hinder your message and negatively impact workers, creating anxiety that can interfere with job performance and satisfaction. It’s no surprise that as many as 63 percent of employees want daily updates from employers while working from home, and 20 percent want communications several times a day.

Here are three tips to help you improve remote communications:

Adapt Your Style

Even without a pandemic in play, peers and colleagues respond differently to different types of communication. While some have a strong preference for email or instant messages, others might be more comfortable talking things through with a phone or video call. Kristen (Shumate) McDowell, global enterprise channel communications manager for CommScope, has navigated such issues managing cross-functional teams and recommends taking the time to figure out the most effective way to communicate. She believes that adapting to your audience and identifying the different ways people receive and understand information can improve remote communications. In most cases, she says, you can take cues from how they typically try to reach you. “Whether by spontaneous phone call, scheduled meeting, quick instant message or lengthy email, figure out what is most effective for each person you interact with frequently.”

If you have a team member who always reaches out via email, then email could be the best way to reach them. “Even in normal circumstances, it’s important to remember that everyone prefers to receive information in a different way,” says McDowell.

Vary Your Tools

With in-person meetings and industry events currently on hold, most people use digital tools to stay connected. But beware of digital fatigue as colleagues and partners become overwhelmed with emails and video call invitations. And there’s a logistics problem when team members can’t attend scheduled calls because their work routines are interrupted by unpredictable family situations. McDowell’s team relied primarily on email and monthly calls to keep sales teams abreast of channel communications. It wasn’t enough, so they built a Microsoft Teams site where internal sales professionals could interact with channel information staff at their convenience to improve their communication.

Increase Your Empathy

A little empathy can go a long way, especially in these challenging times when colleagues and partners are taking calls from their home offices, where life and work can collide. Consider the added stress a new Mom or Dad must feel if they can’t soothe a crying baby in the middle of a conference call. Kids at home, pets and other goings-on can be tense for colleagues trying to make the best of a difficult situation. “The key here is really to be empathetic,” says McDowell. “The pandemic has impacted every single person you work with on some level.”

McDowell infuses humanity into her remote communication to keep teams and partners connected, waving to their kids when they come to the camera, asking about their hobbies to lighten the mood – and laughing with them as they try to get their dog to stop barking. McDowell says these principles make her feel more connected and increase the productivity of her teams.

As channel professionals navigate remote communications, frequent check-ins can help keep lines of communication open and ensure ongoing collaboration. Being empathetic and adaptable can ease the stress and fatigue of remote interactions.

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