“Could this be an email?”: How To Be Assertive Virtually

Although all our lockdowns have been vastly different, there is one universal truth: virtual meetings are the worst. But the most annoying part is that most of them could have simply been an email topic for you to easily reply to. Most of them are too big and crowded, so you often just feel lost in the storm, sitting in your home office and wasting precious time.

With a global burn out impending, we’re all experiencing high levels of Zoom fatigue. Sure, it might have been nice in April to see people’s faces, but now you’re sick of looking at your own, as you’re wasting vital hours of the day whilst your team leader tells you you’re doing great.

Although communicating in the physical office was a breeze, for most, applying those same tactics in a virtual office can be impossible. With no water cooler to chat around, and no easy way to pass a message to a friend — how can you be assertive in the virtual office?

Set Clear Boundaries

Before life shut down and no one’s emails began with ‘unprecedented times’, your office life was probably on point; you were on your a-game, finishing all deadlines on time, and were hitting your targets. But now while WFH, whether it’s taking on too many tasks, working in your lunch break to avoid getting behind on work, or attending a non-mandatory meeting just because you feel peer pressured — in these uncertain times, our schedules are all a little thrown off. Yet, a simple way to be assertive in the virtual office is by saying ‘no.’

By saying no and setting clear boundaries, this will not only allow your co-workers to value your time more, but it will help you prioritise yourself and your own work. If saying ‘no’ scares you, start by saying no in low-risk situations while WFH, like if your colleague wants a chat even though you’re about to finish a task.

Ok, so you can’t say no to everything (some Zoom meetings still need to be attended), but if a workmate asks you to take on one of their tasks, or a supervisor just wants a little ‘causal chat’ with team members even though you’ have a 5 o’clock deadline, feel free to say no.

Over Communicate

Without water cooler catch ups or being able to nip into your manager’s office, communicating with your manager or supervisor has probably been a little off during lockdown, and you might be feeling guilty for it.

An easy way to be assertive in the virtual office is simply to over communicate. While it might feel unnatural, over communicating can make sure nothing gets lost in translation.

If emails feel too stuffy and are giving you serious anxiety, why not ask to swap to more informal modes of contact such as Slack? Using instant messengers (that aren’t your personal, private social media) can help ease the tension when communicating and help you become less afraid when hitting send.

Get To The Point!

Sure, we all love a good waffle every now and then, but the virtual office is NOT the space for that. Whether it’s on a zoom call or in a message to your supervisor — get to the point. Everyone has about a billion things to do right now, so clearly and concisely state your problem or question.

While using technical terms might make it look like you know what you’re doing, it might not resonate with others and can seem confusing; so ditch the jargon and make your words as clear as possible. Not only will this help you to be assertive, making sure all of your WFH needs are met and even your workload a little lighter, you’ll also be making sure everyone’s on the same virtual page.

So next time you’re talking to a manager about a problem or drafting an email to your supervisor, answer these three statements:

  • Am I being clear?
  • Am I being concise?
  • Am I being consistent?

By answering yes and following the three c’s of effective communication, you’re allowing yourself the opportunity to not only get your opinions across, but also ensure you’re being assertive with your wants and needs while WFH.

Written by Alison Irlam
Alison is a writer with a keen interest in mental health and wellbeing. Since finishing a postgraduate degree in Creative Writing and having her own experiences with mental health, she has dedicated her time to helping and empowering others to make positive changes in their own lives.

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