Digital Body Language:

March 18, 2021

A year on from the UK’s first lockdown, many workers may still be missing this essential skill whilst working from home. Learn some quick and simple ways to ace your digital body language.  

Ever find yourself wondering why that last conversation you had with Ben from accounting was so awkward, but you can’t work out why? It might be down to your digital body language.  

Many of us know the statistic that only 7% of a message is conveyed through words and that the other 93% comes from nonverbal communication. But why wasn’t this language taught at school?! I hear you cry... well, don’t throw your French GCSE out of the window just yet.  

We’re all subconsciously taught body language skills in our early years. In fact, body language can be traced back to prehistoric and pre-language times. After all, when we didn’t know how to communicate verbally, non-verbal signals were all we had.  

But what exactly is “nonverbal communication”? Put simply: it’s the use of eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, posture, and the distance between two individuals. And when it’s transferred online, it can be understood as digital body language.  

Digital body language is important for establishing and maintaining good rapport, contributing to high morale, and just generally creating a positive work environment for everyone at the company.

One of the biggest tasks for those of us WFH is finding the right tone to use online. Getting the wrong tone of voice in an email can be enough to keep many of us up all night worrying about it. By simply adding a smiling emoji to an email can immediately let the person on the other end know your tone is friendly and casual. Everyone from the CEO down should feel good about using emojis. 🥳

The good news is, there are plenty of quick and easy ways you can try to make sure you are fluent in digital body language – whether you’re an employee or a manager!  

For employees, simply turning your camera on is a big step in looking more approachable and friendly.  Letting others see you goes a long way to ease the strain of online communications as you can use your body language relatively in its normal way. So long as you look engaged with what your co-workers are saying, and your background is free of distractions then you’re already halfway there!  

Another simple digital body language boosting tip is speaking up during calls. Speaking in front of lots of people can be daunting for many of us but try seeing a negative as a positive: behind a computer screen, you are probably able to speak to many more people than you would if you were faced with them all physically in front of you. Why not use the WFH time to your advantage and work on growing your confidence?

A new report from Microsoft Surface and YouGov, entitled Work Smarter to live Better has found that 65% of employees WFH said socialising is what they miss most when they work remotely. So, if you’re feeling the same, there’s a good chance your colleagues are too! If you would stop and chat whilst making a coffee on a normal office day, then you can easily transfer that interaction online onto a messaging channel.  

For managers, one of the best ways you can help your employees is by demonstrating clear and consistent communication. Your team will be looking to you for guidance and so you will want to lead by example. The same rules apply to you about ensuring your camera is on during video calls! This not only helps you to appear more approachable, but it helps set the standard.  

There is no reason to leave your employees feeling isolated or confused because of a lack of effective communication. Especially when it can be so simple to put into place! It is a good idea to create a regular space – whether it’s a group call or group chat – where information and updates can be shared with one another freely.

It is also important to maintain strong connections with your employees in one-on-one meetings, as well as in low-pressure, friendly ways – so your employees don’t always dread a call from you!  

At a stressful time, it is a good idea to be extra aware of people’s feeling and their uncertainties. Scheduling a meeting with someone when they have no idea what it’s about can have bigger consequences than we might realise. Employees may be much more ready to jump to unpleasant conclusions than they would be otherwise.  

Well, there we have it! Now you know how to ace your digital body language with some quick and easy tips.