As our CU campuses move to online classes and many students, faculty and staff are asked to work remotely, it is a good time to be intentional in how to virtually maintain relationships and communicate effectively.

In my experience, the importance of communication, relationship building and maintenance are important all of the time. When engaging virtually, we have to pay extra attention to, and make an extra effort to do this work. I believe two main keys are transparency and consistency. Here are some tips to keep your office communication transparent and consistent through virtual communication.

Transparency:

  • The reason I’m asking is…” Include why you are asking a question, especially if it is in an email. This will help your respondent identify your specific need and answer accordingly. It will also cut down on email back and forth.
  • Clarity of schedule and work. Be sure that you and your team know what is expected of each person. This includes when and how each person will be available for calls or virtual meetings, what projects each person is working on, expected deliverables and timelines, etc. 
  • Work communication plan. Have a plan and structure for how you will communicate with each other and know what everyone is working on.

Consistency:

  • Use the same messaging each time. As humans, we tune into differences in people’s behavior – in person and virtual. We then make assumptions about the ‘why’ behind the changes. Over time, this leads to misinterpretations, miscommunications, and conflict.
    • Email: Start, end, and structure all emails the same way. Use the same greeting and same closing.
    • Phone: Start and end all phone calls the same way. Try to maintain the same tone of voice in all of your calls. If you notice your tone being different, share why (e.g., “I recognize my tone of voice is different… I’m just thinking about many things at once… I am still processing that last meeting… I just got off the phone with another colleague and I’m still thinking about that… I’m feeling really tired today…” etc.)
  • Structure regular meetings/check-ins and don’t miss them. Structure and consistency adhering to that structure is incredibly important to maintain connection, expectations, and predictability. Even if you don’t have anything to discuss in a scheduled meeting, at least show up to say, “Hi,” to everyone, check in for a minute, and then close the meeting.

These are just a few ways to create and maintain transparency and consistency on your teams. Be creative and find other ways that are authentic to you and your team’s needs.

For a few more tips, please review our past articles on best practices for when and how to email as well as tips for email subject lines.

By Teresa Ralicki, Ombuds,
University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus Ombuds Office