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Communication in a Virtual Office: How to Speak Digital

November 19, 2014

Altaf, Andrew”Communication in a Virtual Office: How to Speak Digital”

Communication in a Virtual Office: How to Speak Digital

With each leap forward, technology changes how we communicate – for better and for worse. The invention of the phone led to the creation of an entirely new set of manners, phone etiquette. The rising use of digital technology has had its own cultural impact, affecting everything from slang and etiquette to the very mediums we use to connect with each other.

However, digital communication also comes with its own set of problems. Face-to-face communication combines words, tone, facial expressions, and body language to convey meaning, but many of these factors are absent from electronic interactions. This can often result in misunderstandings or hurt feelings. To avoid making these common mistakes in your virtual office, follow these simple tips for communicating effectively in a digital world:

Learn to communicate over many different mediums. Cell phones, text messaging, and email are practically necessities nowadays. They’re so second nature that even grandparents have moved past chain emails and are now mastering the art of the selfie. FaceTime and video calls are becoming more widely used, and app integration allows users to receive notifications from their email and social media accounts instantaneously.

Electronic communication services allow users to have private and group chats, make video and audio calls, send files, and share screens with other users. Cloud storage providers like Google Docs and iCloud have made it easier than ever to store, access, and share files from anywhere in the world. Virtual office providers like Sococo offer many of these services or integrate them in their system, so try to learn to use as many of them as possible. It doesn’t matter if you chat, video call, voice call or all of the above while sharing your screen with others in your virtual office, minding your online manners and communication will help your networking skills and business relationships improve, too!

Familiarize yourself with Internet shorthand. LOL, BRB, and ROFL have been staples of web lingo since the Internet’s infancy. The lexicon has increased considerably since then and new abbreviations and acronyms come into use every day. There are quite a few dictionaries available online, so check one out if you come across a shorthand you don’t recognize. In the meantime, here are a few common phrases that you should know:


  • EOD = end of day
  • SWAG = software and giveaways
  • TWIMC = to whom it may concern
  • RFD/RFP = request for discussion/request for proposal
  • AFAIK = as far as I know
  • IIRC = if I recall correctly
  • FWIW = for what it’s worth
  • P&C = private and confidential


Use emoticons. Tone is an important factor in oral communication. Sometimes, how you say something is just as important as what you say. This idea is the lifeblood of sarcasm and parody. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of text messaging, instant messaging, and email is that tone is difficult to convey through words alone.

A well-placed emoticon can often remedy this problem by visually reinforcing the tone of a message. Though 🙂 and 😛 are always useful classics, many services offer animated emoticons as well. Be sure not to overdo it, however, or you may come off as flirty or unprofessional.

Remember your manners! Studies suggest that people are meaner online than they are in real life because they usually do not have to deal with the immediate and uncomfortable consequences of treating someone poorly. This shouldn’t come as any surprise. It’s easier to talk about someone behind their back than it is to confront them directly. Because of this, we often see online message boards bring out the worst in people.

If you’re working virtually, keep in mind that there is a person on the other end of the connection. You never know how others may internalize and interpret your words and actions, especially in a digital environment in which you may not hear tone or see facial expressions. Maintain the same manners and professional decorum that you would in a physical office and remember that please and thank you go a long way, even in a virtual setting.

Proofread your messages before you send them. We’ve all accidentally blurted out something before thinking and then immediately regretted it. Written virtual communication, like texting and instant messaging, give you with the luxury of always being able to think before you speak.

Before you send a message, read it back and ask yourself how you would interpret it if you were in the receiver’s shoes. If needed, revise the message for clarity and tone. With a little foresight, you never have to worry about putting your foot in your mouth in a virtual office.

From work to home and everywhere in between, being able to communicate effectively is a critically important skill. Use these easy tips to improve your communication skills not only in your virtual office, but in all other areas of life as well.

BIO: Hayley Irvin is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. When she’s not creating awesome content for the Marketing Zen Group & Sococo, she’s writing about basketball, learning about space, and thwarting her cats’ plans to take over the world. Catch up with her on Twitter @HayleyNIrvin

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