How to Create Connection in Remote Meetings
By Ruth Ballard, PowerUp Leadership
Video Meetings: Pros and Cons
More and more workplaces are finding it necessary to adopt remote or hybrid models, and though many employees enjoy the benefits of working from home, it’s hard to deny that maintaining social connection within teams has become more challenging than ever. We all rely on our workplace relationships to collaborate, stay informed, and connect to a common vision or purpose. Without having the same amount of real-life interactions to rely on, how do we stay connected? Of course, the cornerstone of communication in the remote workplace is the video meeting. Video meetings provide some opportunity for social connection and enable forms of collaboration and idea-sharing that emails cannot. However, despite having a few years of collective experience, many of us still find video meetings frustrating and draining, and experience the phenomenon known as “zoom fatigue.”
What Makes Video Meetings So Difficult?
A speaker and researcher at the University College of London, Paul Hills, has focused his studies on video meetings and their unique challenges. Hills aims to understand and combat meeting fatigue by providing insight for successful video meetings. According to Hills, video meetings are difficult because they lack non-verbal communication. In an in-person meeting, team members receive nonverbal affirmations that reassure them they are being heard, and that their contributions are being valued. In video meetings, these affirmations do not translate. Contributors start to feel awkward or unheard and eventually stop speaking up. This problem is further amplified when participants turn off their cameras or begin multitasking on other work during meetings. The incentive to participate is lost, and the team loses a valuable opportunity to connect and collaborate. An effective team meeting should create energy and inspire a team, not drain team energy and isolate members further.
Hills, among other experts, believes that nonverbal affirmations can be adapted to work effectively in remote communication. He has designed a system of Video Meeting Signals that communicate nonverbal responses without interrupting or derailing a speaker’s train of thought. These signals can be as simple as giving your camera thumbs up to show a colleague you agree with them. Whether a team adopts these hand signals or not, finding ways to stay engaged in video meetings can benefit your team and decrease feelings of isolation.
Here are a few methods to try:
- Non-Verbal Communication: Using Video Meeting Signals is one example of how teams can create a better meeting atmosphere, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. Finding ways to communicate over video without derailing conversations and draining social reserves does require effort, but it is nowhere near impossible. For example, chat functions in meetings or email follow-ups can be used to communicate active listening or appreciation of team members’ specific contributions.
- Commit Your Attention: It can be tempting to multitask during a video meeting, especially when your workload feels overwhelming. In these moments, consider why the connections built through meeting time are valuable. In an in-person workplace, casual check-ins are easier to facilitate, but in a remote environment, meetings are the major opportunity to create connections. Being present and active in a meeting shows your teammates you value what they have to say. If you have a say in your team’s meeting structure, consider hosting shorter meetings with more active participation and fewer opportunities for distraction. An efficient, focused meeting can provide more successful team cohesion than a longer meeting where no one participates.
- Focus on Personal Connection: Teams are made up of individuals. It can be easy to forget this fact in larger groups, especially when meetings have no one-on-one follow-up. To connect with a virtual team we need to build real relationships. In a video meeting, make an effort to demonstrate your interest in individual team members. Acknowledge a person’s well-made point, ask a specific question, demonstrate that you’re listening and that you care. Communication does not have to be impersonal to be useful and professional.
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