working from home
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Dubai: With Covid-19 affecting us all, working from home has become the new norm and will be for some time, as virtual connection has replaced person-to-person connection. At first glance, this may seem easier and more convenient: no traffic to weave through or rushing out the door balancing coffee mug, bags and phone. However, being present on virtual calls requires effort.

We are connected - but only partially - with our minds, trying to figure out and fill in all the empty spaces of the senses we have but can’t use in virtual calls. We lose the emotional connection that we are used to having

Most people are aware that non-verbal behavior cues play a big role in our professional presence and how we are perceived when meeting with people. But, body language is equally important in virtual meetings and phone calls.

Khaulah Abbas

Gulf News speaks to Khaulah Abbas, the Founder of Your Professional Presence, who shares 10 tips on how to use your body language while on virtual meetings.

1. Ideally, show your face

Not many people are comfortable with the idea of showing their face through their Zoom calls. However, with the limited physical contact we have, eye contact is one of the ways to reduce the feeling of loneliness and isolation and create personable connections with colleagues. This in turn, will also encourage you to keep a professional look, even when working from your kitchen table. Practice looking into your camera during video conferences when you speak, even for brief moments, keeping the camera at eye level. The more you use it, the more comfortable you’ll become with it.

2. Wear something presentable

How you dress affects how you feel, your confidence level and how people perceive you. In addition to being camera-ready, it also sets the stage for you to be work-ready. When you look good, you feel good, and this is true even through virtual communication. Don’t consider yourself at home, consider yourself at work. It’s equally important to also be mindful of what your colleagues can see behind you – no one wants to see on overflowing sink from last night’s cooking or scattered toys. Create a work-space with a neutral backdrop so both you and you colleagues don’t get distracted.

3. Centering and grounding

Before a meeting or call, it is helpful to get centered. This is done by placing both feet flat on the ground, hands to heart or navel, and taking a few deep “belly breaths “or diaphragmatic breathing. If you are working as a team, this may be something to do all together at the beginning of the meeting.

4. Posture

Sit with your back straight and lean forward a bit. Posture affects your confidence as Amy Cuddy explained in her wildly successful Ted Talk. Start by placing your feet flat on the floor, positioning yourself to be well seated in your chair, closer to the edge of the seat – this also showcases interest in what the other person across is saying. Having your feet in contact with the ground subconsciously leads to better breathing and leads to emotional and mental stability.

5. Tone of voice

Voice plays a big role in how people feel about what you say. When speaking, especially in virtual calls, it’s not uncommon to feel anxious and stressed. Project your ideas with confidence, don’t let your voice creep upward at the end of a sentence – this is can make you seem vulnerable. Research shows that people speaking at the lower scale of their natural voice are perceived as having more authority.

6. Show your hands, and use them

Hand gestures are a powerful tool of communication. When people can see your hands, you are seen more in a more positive light and as more trustworthy. When talking or presenting, use your hands to match your words to get your message across. Don’t be afraid to take up space - in virtual meetings, the gestures need to be a bit bigger but not erratic.

7. Hydration for a healthy voice

Working remotely often leads to you speaking and interacting with your colleagues more than you normally would - this could be the reason we feel so exhausted at the end of a day of virtual meetings. And, when we are stressed, our vocal cords are tightened, giving us a higher pitch. It’s important to keep your vocal cords well hydrated by drinking water, try to stay away from caffeinated drinks as they have a tendency to dry the throat. By staying hydrated, your voice sounds better, resulting in you sounding more confident.

8. A smile goes a long way

People can feel and see your positive energy with a genuine smile. This kind of smile lights up the entire face and create crows-feet at the corner of the eyes. You will appear friendly, approachable, and composed. What’s more, smiling immediately influences how other people respond to you. When you smile at someone, they almost always smile back. And, as a result, because facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings, the smile you get back actually changes that person’s emotional state in a positive way.

9. Focus and be present

We like to believe that we are capable of multitasking; however, research shows that our brains cannot process many inputs at the same time. You wouldn’t browse your social media pages in a face-to-face meeting, so be mindful to focus on what is being said in your meeting. it is best to close open tables, put your phone away and focus – o Similarly, when you’re on a call, it’s just as important for you to be present - even if you aren’t presenting – as it could affect your professional reputation if you are prompted for a question and appear unprepared.

10. Build trust

Building and maintaining trust in the traditional, physical workplace is difficult enough, but the process is even tougher in a virtual environment, where we often have to work with a blurred-out screen. It’s important to build an environment of collaboration, transparency, communication, and trust for every single team member. Having a sense of camaraderie between colleagues leads to a sense of trust - Employees are more likely to trust each other when they feel a sense of connection.