A recent UCLA research has highlighted the importance of nonverbal communication, with 93% of human communication conveyed through body language and facial expressions. As a professional, and particularly a manager, it is essential to be aware of the physical messages being sent. With the rise of remote teams, the importance of virtual body language has become increasingly relevant. It is therefore important to apply the same principles to remote working.
As a remote manager, it is likely that you will heavily rely on online chat tools such as Trello, Slack and email for communication. In some cases, you may also engage in live, face-to-face video conversations, in which case your body language will be particularly important. Although the remote employee may only be able to see your upper body, it is still capable of conveying a powerful message. Psychologists refer to the slight changes in facial expression around the eyes and lips as “micro-expressions” as they are often extremely subtle and can easily be missed.
How can you tell whether the message you’re conveying is effective? Follow these guidelines to perfect your online body language.
The Importance of Body Language in Online Meetings What Exactly Is Body Language?
Body language is the term used to describe non-verbal communication, where body movements such as facial expressions, gestures, eye contact and spatial arrangement are used to convey meaning rather than words. Additionally, behaviour during video calls reflects virtual body language, as the way in which someone speaks, uses their hands and their posture all provide insights into their personality.
The non-verbal cues present in a face-to-face encounter can be a clear indication of disagreement. However, recognising these same cues on a video platform such as Zoom can be more difficult. It is important to be aware of the subtle changes in body language, as even the smallest of details can have a huge impact on the success of communication in a remote team. As a manager, understanding and facilitating effective communication is an essential part of your role, as it is the foundation of a successful remote team.
The significance of virtual body language is not limited to online meetings such as Zoom. Have you ever had a response from a colleague which indicated a lack of interest through email? You put in a considerable effort to explain a process or promote an idea, only to receive a terse “K” in return, causing you to question your previous beliefs. Virtual body language in the workplace encompasses a vast array of expressions.
The Effects of Nonverbal Communication When Working Remotely
Minna Rhee, an award-winning journalist, highlighted that non-verbal communication, composed of body language, gestures, facial expressions and eye movements, is often largely subconscious and may be more powerful than what is said. Therefore, physical actions will outweigh words, even if the words are kind.
Observing people’s body language on Zoom can be a useful skill to develop. Start by paying close attention to the other participants – do they appear to be actively engaged, or are they distracted? Becoming mindful of your own behaviour is equally important. Ask yourself how attentive you are when others speak during meetings, or if you are preoccupied with other tasks. Setting a good example to colleagues by demonstrating focus and engagement will encourage them to follow suit.
Remote working has been viewed with a degree of skepticism by many, yet due to the advancement in technology, virtual teams can experience a greater sense of connection than ever before. It is imperative to ensure that video conferencing is employed, allowing all team members to be visible to one another and create a sense of being in the same physical space. However, this is only the beginning; to take the experience to the next level, it is necessary to develop a comprehensive virtual body strategy to optimise interactions.
Advice on Body Language for Long-Distance Supervisors
Is the aim to perfect your virtual body language? This is what we recommend most strongly:
It is essential for managers to ensure regular eye contact is made with their staff members, even when not in the same physical location. It is important to avoid making your employee feel uncomfortable with a forced stare-down, instead making eye contact in a natural manner. Maintaining a suitable level of eye contact conveys a sense of safety and trust to your remote employee, as well as demonstrating that you are actively listening.
One of the most reliable indications of a person’s emotional state is their facial expression, particularly the shape of their lips. If someone is angry, their lips may be pursed together; if they are resentful, they may be pinched together; and if they are smiling, their lips will stretch up to the sides of their face. To ensure effective communication, it is important to maintain a pleasant, upbeat tone when speaking.
3. The Shoulders
Having a good posture can communicate a lot about one’s confidence and mood. During adolescence, people may tend to slump their shoulders, which may suggest a lack of self-worth or insecurity. According to Forbes, slouching can signify “laziness or arrogance”. As a remote manager, it is important to maintain a confident and professional demeanour during video conferences. To ensure this, it is important to maintain an upright posture and ensure the camera is facing your body.
It is important to be aware of your body language when interacting with remote workers, as this can provide nonverbal signals to the other person. Leaning forward during a conversation can be seen as a sign of attentiveness, whereas slouching with arms crossed can come across as being irritated or unhappy. On the other hand, resting your arms behind your head is usually a sign of contentment and enjoyment.
5. Hand Motion
Using hand gestures in video conversations with your remote workers is an effective way of expressing yourself, as well as keeping them engaged. Positive body language such as a thumbs up or finger steeple conveys encouragement and thoughtfulness, while negative body language such as stopping with your hands in the air or squeezing your nasal bridge conveys frustration or annoyance. Not only is this a great method of communication, but it also helps to save money.
6. Improve Your Written Expression
It is essential to consider not only the way we present ourselves in virtual meetings, but also how we communicate with colleagues through text, email and messaging platforms. As we initially noted, this is an important factor to take into consideration.
It is important to be as clear as possible when communicating with employees, even from a distance. To ensure that your message is being understood correctly, it is important to provide as much detail as possible. Doing so can help avoid any potential misunderstandings or confusion.
7. Punctuation and emojis are lethal weapons
It is interesting to note the importance of punctuation marks, such as exclamation points, emoticons, question marks and full stops, in online communication. For example, a short and concise passage can be interpreted differently depending on the punctuation used.
A: I have to have a word with you.
I have to have a word with you, B.
It is evident that the two texts have a vastly different impact on the reader. Receiving a threatening text message can cause one to think of the worst possible outcome, such as being fired. However, the same phrases in a different text may be interpreted as good news and cause the reader to become more relaxed.
Perhaps you don’t give much thought to the tone of your emails since, after all, words are just words.
Even in a Virtual Meeting, Body Language Is Important.
Managers who are working from a distance should be mindful of the importance of body language. Although it is not necessary to be in an overly cheerful mood during video calls with remote workers (for dispute resolution advice, please refer to our article here), it is important to be aware of the messages you are communicating, both verbally and non-verbally.
Get in contact with Works right now if you’re ready to go digital and tap into the vast pool of remote talent we have at our steepled disposal.