The Art of Communication in the Virtual World is a Big Deal, and We’re Figuring Where to Start

Key learning #1 - Picking the right tool is critical

When you try to use old ways in a new, changing environment, it’s like forcing a millennial to write an email for work updates instead of a quick Slack message or a time-saver shared Google doc or a project management tool. It doesn’t mean that a phone call shouldn't be a better way to connect for a one-on-one meeting or celebrate achievements. But not for reporting, such a tedious task. It’s much more efficient to post updates to a shared doc before the meeting and only highlight on a one-on-one call when the team member needs help. You want to use the most appropriate tool every time to avoid creating discomfort, friction, and ultimately damaging trust irreversibly. Knowing that building trust is all about credibility in the role, positive relationships, and consistency, you can lose your credibility and trust if you create friction using the wrong tool. Now, think of some examples of old ways that won’t last in the new world.

Key learning #2 - Matching in-person communication with virtual practices doesn’t work

Under the first lockdown, there was a tendency to do everything we did in person, in the virtual world. It was all about reinventing the water cooler chatter behind the screen. It’ll sound vintage in ten years. The ambitious idea was to recreate spontaneously - impromptu conversations, small talks - while hanging out - online. The idea of having online coworking spaces, a community of virtual co-workers, is very appealing, especially when living alone or feeling isolated. And if we connect with new friends through social media without ever meeting them, why couldn't we work with them for a chunk of time without procrastinating or escaping too many times for a snack in the kitchen? In the corporate world, it was there more as an attempt to recreate the water cooler conversations with many meetings. Until that is, the Zoom fatigue phenomenon reached its peak in early 2021. After a year of alternate lockdowns, some highly talkative functions like marketing, popular among extroverts and butterfly people, resisted longer than usual. They eventually acknowledged by the summer of 2021 that all-day meetings were unsustainable in the long run. When you rack up project-oriented roles and team brainstorming phases (which is also the case in any design role), you’d better learn when you need to stop before burning out. This is why the future of work is more than ever about experiencing in your environment through your business expectations what works best for your role, your team, and your organization.

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