Effective Communication within Virtual Teams during COVID-19

Effective Communication within Virtual Teams during COVID-19

Effective communication is a necessity for the success of virtual teams.  Effective communication occurs when information is passed from the sender to the receiver, the receiver correctly understands the information and the receiver uses it in the intended manner.  As a result of the impacts of COVID-19, many employees around the world are suddenly working from home.  Employees rely heavily on the use of communication technology to share knowledge and ideas.  It is more difficult for employees working from home to achieve effective communication than employees who are co-located.  With significantly less face-to-face interaction, virtual employees may encounter difficulty establishing a positive relationship with a virtual supervisor.  Working from home is a challenging task if the employee is not equipped with the success tips and tools.    It is imperative that employees are given access to interactive virtual communication tools so they have a fair opportunity to build positive relationships.  If an employee experiences dissatisfaction with communication, the dissatisfaction may lead to higher stress levels, absenteeism, and ultimately a higher employee turnover rate. 

Leaders of organizations allowing employees to work from home may use a variety of virtual tools to develop positive supervisor-employee relationships, such as GoToMeeting, Skype, WebEx, Microsoft Teams and Zoom.   Employees may use such tools to share verbal, non-verbal, and paralinguistic cues during meetings.  Supervisors may also use communication technology to give timely feedback to team members and share information in live, interactive sessions. The use of communication technology helps to reduce the risk of confusion because virtual employees can ask for any needed clarification in real time.  Leaders should select a communication tool that is the best fit for their organization.  Communication tool features to consider during the selection process include:  video conferencing, instant messaging, online meetings, multiple screen and window sharing, whiteboards, group video calls, global usage, file transfers and virtual lobbies for employees to freely collaborate.    

After a communication tool(s) has been selected, best practices and guidelines should be established.  For example, virtual employees should have guidelines to suggest the best times and methods to use when communicating.  This is particularly important when a virtual team includes global employees.  If an employee is located in India or the Middle East, there may be specific times to communicate via instant message or email versus by phone or virtual meetings.  There may also be specific types of information that should only be disseminated via specific communication tools due to confidentiality.  All guidelines should be explained to all employees in a clear, concise and timely manner. 

The growth of virtual teams during the ongoing pandemic has increased the need for effective virtual communication.  Yet, virtual teams are challenged with achieving effective communication across multiple time zones.  Virtual supervisors should leverage interactive tools that stimulate face-to-face interaction.  Communication technology coupled with evidence-based best practices that are designed for a geographically dispersed environment may help foster effective virtual communication. 



Avideh Sadaghiani-Tabrizi's picture Avideh Sadaghiani-Tabrizi | May 15, 2020 8:14 pm MST

Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful tips for communicating effectively amidst this pandemic. We could certainly all benefit greatly from your advice to leverage the advent of modern tools and technologies in enabling communication meanwhile we realize that we need to keep our shields up, and protect against so many bad actors who could jeopordize our wellbeing. For instance, we could use a virtual private network (VPN) with authentication, encryption, and a strong port security to protect our privacy, exercise cognizance to always use the latest operating systems and web browsers, and install updates when prompted and restart our systems to allow the updates to take effect, in addition to using two-factor authentication and never reusing passwords, etc..

Detra German's picture Detra German | May 23, 2020 7:54 pm MST

Thank you for your comment.  Yes, we have to keep security in mind when working in virtual environments.  Multi-factor authentication is a good example as well.  Thank you again for your thoughts on this topic. 

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