In the world we live in, it is crucial to become familiar with virtual communication. Virtual communication refers to emails, text messages, webchats, and other forms of communication that do not happen in-person. Being straightforward and having the right tone is just as important here as with in-person communication.
Emails are one of the best and most reliable ways to communicate in the workplace. Everyone within a company has their own unique email address and millions of people have a personal one that they use just as often. But communicating properly with email involves proper grammar, spelling, and diction. When writing an email, do so in a professional manner (for instance, starting an email with, “I hope you had an excellent weekend”) and if you require an immediate response, make sure it is sent during business hours (typically, 8-5, but your business hours may vary depending on when you work and for how long). It is also polite to respond to your own emails within business hours.
Another important thing to remember is email etiquette. Since email is your main avenue to communicating with your colleagues, it is also crucial to remember how to conduct yourself in an appropriate manner when emailing. The following tips can act like a checklist the next time you send an email to a colleague or client.
- Avoid emotional emailing: In the heat of the moment, you’re apt to say something harmful or hurtful. If you receive an email that ignites such feelings, wait a while before sending a reply. If you send something back that is rude or hypercritical, then all you’ve done is create a cycle of mean-spirited emailing. Conflicts should be resolved respectfully, quietly, and with a mediator present.
- Proper formatting and proofreading: Work emails should be polite, professional, and follow a standard format (subject line, an appropriate greeting, the body of the email that is straightforward and includes any questions you may have, and a signature). Proofreading simply means reading over your email, fixing spelling/grammar errors, and editing your message to make it more succinct.
- Keep your tone formal and use emojis occasionally: Try to avoid sarcasm, as that tone can be tricky to pick up on where emails are concerned. Also, do not frequently place emojis in your emails…for instance, do not use emojis when communicating with a customer or a client. Save those for your team, as long as they are seen as appropriate.
- Weekends and weeks away: Do not send emails on a late Friday or over the weekend.Your work email is a work task, so hourly employees should not be reading or responding to emails on the weekend or outside normal hours. Lastly, it is important to set an “out of the office” alert to emails when you are going on vacation. Most jobs will require a specific “out of the office” alert, which will automatically respond to any incoming emails. It is important to keep these “out of the office” messages short and concise.
Texting is fine to do when you’re in a pinch with a friend, relative, or significant other, but it is not the preferred method of communication at work. However, texting is a great tool for quick communication and is often used within teams. As long as you do not misuse your texting (for inappropriate or irrelevant reasons) and ask colleagues their preference (some may prefer to keep texting personal), if it works for you and your team, then it works. But you must also read the room before sending certain text messages…for instance, it is inappropriate to give your two weeks’ notice over text. It is also inappropriate to send work updates and projects over text…leave that for emails.
You might not think Zoom counts as virtual communication, but it absolutely does. Though you are seeing the other person and can observe their facial expressions, as well as discuss matters in a timely fashion that does not depend on the speed of their reply, it is still virtual. You still need to be conscious of your own professional communication, as well as how you present yourself on camera. If you’re chatting with friends or relatives, then your attire probably does not matter. But when you’re on a business Zoom call, it is important to dress appropriately, sit at your desk or a table (not in your bed or on the couch), and act just as professionally as you would in person.
Virtual communication is useful in everyday life, as well as something with which everyone is becoming comfortable. Professional virtual communication may be a little confusing, but as long as you use it appropriately and learn from any mistake you might make, virtual communication will be a cinch.