Does Body Language Matter to an Overseas Manager?

According to a recent study conducted by UCLA, 93% of human communication is conveyed through nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions. As an individual in a professional setting, especially in a managerial role, it is crucial to be mindful of the signals being communicated through physical gestures. The significance of virtual body language has surged with the advent of remote teams, hence applying the same principles to remote work is vital.

As a remote manager, your primary mode of communication would likely revolve around online chat tools like Trello, Slack, and email. However, during live video conversations, your body language becomes particularly significant. Even though the remote worker may only see your upper body, it can still convey a powerful message. Psychologists emphasise the importance of “micro-expressions,” subtle facial expressions around the eyes and lips, which could otherwise be easily missed.

To determine if the message you’re sending is effective, adhere to these guiding principles to refine your virtual body language.

The Significance of Virtual Body Language in Remote Meetings – A Primer

The term “body language” refers to non-verbal communication, encompassing bodily movements like facial expressions, hand gestures, eye contact and spatial arrangement that express meaning without the use of words. Moreover, one’s conduct during video calls reflects virtual body language, as their style of speaking, hand movements and body posture offers a glimpse into their personality.

Non-verbal signs during an in-person interaction can clearly indicate disagreement. However, recognising these very same signs on a video conferencing platform like Zoom could prove to be more challenging. One must be cognisant of the minute changes in virtual body language, as even the slightest detail can significantly impact communication in a remote team. Facilitating effective communication, as a manager, is a fundamental aspect of your job, as it constitutes the bedrock of a thriving remote team.

The relevance of virtual body language is not restricted to online meetings like Zoom. Have you ever received a response from a coworker via email that conveyed a lack of interest? You likely spent a considerable amount of time and effort explaining a procedure or advocating an idea, only to receive an abrupt response like “K” in return that undermined your convictions. Virtual body language in a work environment entails a wide range of expressions.

The Impact of Virtual Body Language When Working Remotely

Minna Rhee, an acclaimed journalist, draws attention to the fact that non-verbal communication, which comprises body language, hand gestures, facial expressions and eye movements, is predominantly unconscious and may be more impactful than words. Consequently, physical conduct supersedes verbal language, irrespective of the latter’s tone.

Honing the ability to analyse people’s virtual body language on Zoom can be a valuable skill to acquire. Begin by closely observing other participants – are they actively involved or distracted? Equally essential is being mindful of your own conduct. Consider if you are truly attentive when others speak during meetings or if you are consumed by other tasks. Leading by example by displaying attentiveness and involvement can motivate your colleagues to emulate your conduct.

Although remote work is still treated with some suspicion by some, technological advancements make it possible for virtual teams to establish a stronger sense of connection than ever. Employing video conferencing is crucial to ensure that all team members remain visible to one another, creating a shared sense of physical presence. However, this alone is insufficient. It is necessary to formulate a comprehensive virtual body language approach to maximise interactions and take the experience to newer heights.

Guidance on Virtual Body Language for Remote Supervisors

Looking to master your virtual body language? These are our top recommendations:

1. Blinking

Managers must ensure that they maintain consistent eye contact with their team members, even when not physically present in the same location. Avoid making your employee feel uneasy with an intense stare; instead, establish eye contact in a natural manner. Sustaining a proper amount of eye contact indicates to your remote employee that you are listening intently and fosters a sense of security and trust.

2. Lips

Facial expressions, especially the shape of one’s lips, are among the most trustworthy indicators of a person’s emotional state. If someone is angry, their lips may be tightly pursed; if they are resentful, their lips may be compressed; and if they are happy or content, their lips will naturally curve upwards towards the sides of their face. To ensure efficient communication, maintaining an affable and optimistic tone when speaking is crucial.

3. Shoulders

Maintaining good posture can convey a lot about one’s confidence and emotional state. During adolescence, it is common for individuals to slump their shoulders, which may imply a lack of self-esteem or fragility. As per Forbes, slouching can indicate “complacence or conceit”. As a remote manager, projecting a self-assured and polished persona during video conferences is essential. To achieve this, maintain an upright posture and ensure that the camera is directed towards your body.

4. Stance

Your body language when communicating with remote workers should be taken under consideration, as it can communicate nonverbal cues to the other person. Leaning forward during a conversation can signify attentiveness, whereas slouching with arms crossed can convey annoyance or dissatisfaction. Conversely, placing your arms behind your head generally implies that you are comfortable and pleased.

5. Hand Gestures

Leveraging hand gestures during video conversations with your remote workers is a useful method of expressing yourself and keeping them involved. Encouraging and thoughtful body language, such as a thumbs up or finger steeple, conveys positive signals, while negative body language, like throwing your hands in the air or pinching the bridge of your nose, can express annoyance or frustration. Besides being an excellent mode of communication, it also assists in cutting costs.

6. Enhance Your Written Communication

It is crucial to contemplate not just how we come across in virtual meetings, but also how we interact with co-workers via text, email, and messaging platforms. As previously mentioned, this is a significant aspect to keep in mind.

When communicating with employees, even from a distant location, it is imperative to maintain clarity. To guarantee that your message is accurately comprehended, it is necessary to provide as much information as feasible. This can help circumvent any possible misunderstandings or perplexities.

7. Punctuation and Emojis Can be Powerful Tools

The significance of punctuation marks, such as exclamation points, emoticons, question marks, and periods, in online correspondence is notable. For instance, the use of punctuation can alter the way a brief and succinct message is perceived.

A: I need to speak with you.

B, I need to speak with you.

It is clear that the two messages may have a significantly varied effect on the reader. For instance, receiving a text message that is perceived as threatening may lead one to imagine the most negative outcome, such as getting terminated. Conversely, the same phrases used in a different text can be understood as positive news and subsequently calm the reader.

It is possible that you do not pay much consideration to the tone of your emails since, in the end, words are simply words.

Body Language Remains Significant Even in Virtual Meetings.

For managers who are working remotely, it is crucial to recognize the significance of body language. While it is not obligatory to be overly enthusiastic during video conferences with remote employees (for guidance on conflict resolution, refer to our piece here), it is important to be conscious of the verbal and nonverbal cues you are conveying.

If you’re prepared to enter the digital realm and utilize the extensive reservoir of remote talent at our disposal, get in touch with Works immediately.

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