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Global Flipchart #19



September 2020

Don't forget the body

Héctor Villarreal Lozoya

Some have written about the perils of virtual work in relation to the pandemic. People are not used to working from home, much less being stuck in a desk for hours on end, without breaks from morning till dawn. Doctors write about the need to move, to activate our body and get our blood circulating. Psychologists share that Zoom fatigue is real and we need our breaks.

But this writing is not about that, there are far more qualified writers to talk about this.

I’d like to share a bit about what I’ve learned during the pandemic and our bodies as a way to connect, interact and generate consensus in a remote environment. In the last months I’ve found that participants either in sessions I’ve facilitated or in the trainings I’ve delivered are quite open to the opportunity to use their bodies to communicate.

In the beginning people were quite concerned about how they looked on camera (there are some studies that have gone deeper into this), so illumination, camera angle and backgrounds were all what people focused on (some webcam makers are still making up their depleted inventories). But then, some just started to realize that people could communicate in many different ways and still make actual connections.

Have you realized that when you say “Hi” or “Goodbye” you wave at the camera? Is precisely our innate ability to communicate at work. And as a facilitator I realize we can take full advantage of it.

Virtual platforms have become our new meeting rooms, our new stage, and as such they become a space that we can use to our advantage.

Many of you possibly remember the technique of raising your hand and wait until everybody is quiet to command the attention of the group when several participants are talking over one another. I discovered there is a variation of it when working online: I put the palm of my hand in front of the camera. People react to the image coming out of my camera and they pay attention almost immediately (by the way, sometimes the virtual backgrounds won’t help when trying it).

Using the classic 5 finger consensus method also works like a charm, although if you have a higher number of participants than it can be displayed in your monitor you’ll have to be moving around a bit. I’ve found that participants react quite positively to the opportunity to do something physical in front of the camera. In my experience all of this helps me influence the mood and energy of the group.

Another technique you already probably know but is worth mentioning is using music. It helps my participants get their bodies into the rhythm as well. A couple of minutes of letting your body flow with a carefully selected track and a fun exercise can get the team where you need them and ready for the next ninety minutes of work, time well invested if you ask me. There are many colleagues trying out new and interesting ways of interacting remotely using our bodies. 

I’d like to challenge you to engage more with your participants, think how you can invite not just their minds and attention to the session, but their whole bodies. 

Think about all the little techniques and tricks you used when using your body when you were working face to face, how could you adapt them online? How could you make them work?