How to be an active listener while working remotely

Since the pandemic, our attitude and approach to working from home has changed. Pre-pandemic figures show that just 9.4% of the UK population worked from home in 2019. Fast forward to 2022 and working from home has become the new normal, with data revealing that 38 per cent of those aged between 30 and 49 work from home and 23 per cent of workers aged between 16 and 29 are working from home.  This presents issues on managing staff remotely.

As we have adapted our ways of working it has also come with challenges. Listening and communication are essential part of everyday life, especially when in the workplace.

Listening is essential within any workplace setting, it ensures information is received accurately, it allows the other person to know you are engaged, it can build trust and respect and optimise conversations which can subsequently eliminate conflict, anger and resentment within any organisation.

Communication and listening aren’t just found in the form of speaking, they can also be found within body language, such as your posture, eye contact and the positioning of your hands. Each of these things can contribute to showing that you are listening and engaged with an individual.

As a result, it’s important for organisations to highlight listening skills to optimise engagement and understanding within their workforce and how these can be applied in a remote setting.

Here are our top tips for organisations and individuals to be active listeners despite remote working.

Maintaining eye contact and concentration during virtual meetings

Turn your camera on for a start. According to body language experts, the percentage of nonverbal communication we use to communicate with one another is around 60% to 65% so by not having the camera on you are missing a significant part of the conversation.

Pay attention to the speaker and what is being said as well as positioning yourself toward them, so they feel that they are being listened to.

Being in a home environment can be very distracting, try to place yourself in a quiet area with minimal distractions to improve concentration.

Be inclusive with your listening

When in virtual meetings, aim to stay engaged and listen to the sections that may not be directly addressed to you.  Think about engaging with people outside of your immediate colleagues and communicate with people from across the organisation who will have alternative experiences to you. It’s a great opportunity to learn something new and expand your network while being at home.

Checking for understanding

Your understanding is just as important as everyone else. If you don’t understand something, speak up and don’t be afraid to pause the meeting to get clarity.

More times than not, if you’re unsure of something, someone else will be unsure too so don’t feel as though you’re the only one to feel like that.

Asking questions is one of the best ways to achieve clarity of what is being asked in any social or work setting. Whether you are at the top of the hierarchy or closer to the bottom, understanding is essential, especially during remote working when things may get lost in translation.

If you are taking the meeting, check to see if your colleagues understand what is being discussed. It is a great way to make your colleagues feel heard and understood and will also reduce the likelihood of issues when something is unclear or has been misunderstood.

It can be helpful to summarise what has been discussed at the end of the meeting, whether that be sharing your notes or the key points or actions you wish for your colleagues to take away from the meeting.

Paraphrase your hearing

Paraphrasing is a great way to check your understanding of what has been stated. By repeating back what you’ve heard, you will ensure clarity and understanding of what has been discussed or asked of you. It’s especially useful to do whilst in virtual meetings to ensure you are actively listening.

It is also a useful way to highlight the things you may have missed or not quite understood. You can make a note of what you haven’t managed to successfully paraphrase and refer to it when appropriate during the meeting.

Paraphrasing and summarising work hand in hand and can be effective communication techniques to implement into your remote working schedule.

Be flexible and adapt

Every workforce is different and diverse, therefore, it is crucial to ensure that meetings are accessible for everyone including those with learning difficulties. Consider if you may need to implement some additional steps to ensure they are being inclusive, for example, , subtitles and sign language are two things to implement to ensure meetings are inclusive for team members who have hearing difficulties.

For additional support and information on how to help your workforce become better active listeners in the workplace, seek an independent HR advisor for guidance.