Body Language for Digital Immigrants

How excited are we for Hybrid workplaces! The question is- are we ready for it? 🤔

As organizations officially usher into this era of hybrid workplaces, considerations are made on how to redesign office workspaces, stabilize critical infrastructure, review employee benefits and wellness programs etc. And then there’s the conversation on sustaining company culture in a hybrid workplace. One based on the same values of trust, empathy, respect, engagement, sincere affection and bonding.

Erica Dhawan‘s Digital Body Language is a must-read for those crossing through the doors into a hybrid workplace. One of the my learnings is how can retain the essence of our traditional work culture and not succumb to the ambiguity, awkwardness and burn outs that ensue digital communication. We can code and decode new signals to show that we smile, we care and genuinely understand each other will better our prospects for success both individually and as a team.

Inspired by Erica’s work, here’s a curated list of ideas to ace the digital body language. (My favorites are ★)

How to exercise empathy in the digital workplace?

Short answer: Slow Down.
Long answer:
★ Understand that brevity is not the same as clarity
• Ensure clear subject lines; review To: cc: bcc:
• Avoid terse, vague, rushed responses
• Audit recurring meetings
• Proofread responses for tone; not just typos.
• Show empathy across cultural, generational and individual differences in the team

How to show that you respect others?

★ Honor timings 🕒
• Be intentional about meetings – set clear agenda
• Avoid “urgent” meetings unless urgent
• Avoid chronic cancellations without stating reason
• Avoid double booking meetings
• Proactively seek and set expectations around your availability

How to show that you are engaged?

• Convey your feelings better using punctuation and emojis (sorry -vs- so soooory!), but with care (rethink !!!!!, …., ????)
• Meeting owners can level the playing field for all participants (look out for raised hands in a meeting) ✋

How to shake hands for a job well done?

• Write/ say “Thank you”
★ Use Reactions in Teams (❤️, 👍, 👏)

How to convey your smile?

• Use ! and 🙂 emojis (within reason)
★ Don’t hide your smile behind the screen; switch on the video 🎥

How to nod heads digitally?

• Like the text; use thumbs-up emoji 👍 
• Take 5 seconds to comment “I agree with you”

How to show you’re listening?

• Read (chats/ emails) carefully
• Proof read for typos before hitting Send
• Ban multitasking in meetings

How to show excitement?

• Use positive emojis and punctuation wisely
• Prioritize quick response times

How to show trust?

• Avoid persuasive aggressive feelings behind common phrases (Going forward = don’t do that ever again)
★ Avoid digital ghosting (not answering chats/ emails).
1. If your response takes < 60 secs: respond immediately
2. Else if ask is urgent: let sender know you’re on it
3. Else block time to follow-up

How to show urgency?

• Wisely choose the medium of communication; use multiple channels if need be


In the pre-pandemic world, many of us considered WFH to be a huge perk. A year into the digital workplace, we’re struggling to navigate communication gaps and frustrations from misunderstandings. Navigating the digital waters requires more than just acquaintance with tools. We can rely on our digital body language to bring our authentic selves to work, create micro moments of belonging in our teams and foster a deeper sense of connection.

What else would you recommend to improve the digital body language?

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