Body Language: Does It Matter To A Remote Manager?

Body Language and remote managers
Do you know if you're sending the right message? At DistantJob we’ve assembled the best need to know nonverbal cues so you can communicate with confidence.

Body language plays a major role in how we communicate with one another. In fact, according to a study done by UCLA, body language and facial expressions make up 93% of our communication tactics. It’s easy to see why it’s important for professionals, especially those in a management position, to be aware of what message they’re sending physically but does the same principle apply to your remote employees?

Absolutely it does. As a remote manager, the majority of your communication will probably be done through online chatting resources, such as Trello, Slack, and email. However, you will, on occasion, have face to face video chats and that’s where your body language will come into play. Although your remote worker will only see you from the torso up, what your upper body is saying will have a big impact on that person. Your facial expressions only give off major cues, so much so that Psychologists refer to the movements around your eyes and mouth as “micro-expressions.”

Along with facial cues, we will also go over body language with the upper body (posture) and arm and hand gestures. As mentioned previously, your remote employee will most likely not see your lower torso so we won’t go over those positions.

One last thing to remember is although you’ll be communicating via video chat, it’s important to treat each meeting like they were sitting in the same room with you. Eliminate distractions as much as possible before you begin your call.

So how do you know if you’re sending the right message? At DistantJob we’ve assembled the best need to know nonverbal cues so you can communicate with confidence.


Facial Cues for Remote Managers

Award-winning Journalist Minna Rhee noted that “A person’s nonverbal communication, made up of posture, gestures, facial expressions and eye movements, are almost entirely subconscious and can speak a lot louder than what comes out of one’s mouth.” So even if you’re speaking positive words but giving off negative cues, your actions, in this case, physical, will always speak louder than words.

Eye Movement – Although you will not necessarily be speaking to each other in the same room, it’s important for managers to maintain good eye contact with your remote worker. A consistent stare down will result in discomfort and possibly creep out your employee so make sure it feels natural. With both of you speaking remotely, you might be tempted to give your attention to things around you such as your phone or the latest crossword puzzle but a healthy level of eye contact will not only assure your remote worker of your attention but it also gives off an air of security and trustworthiness.

Lips – One of the biggest giveaways on how you’re feeling is your mouth. Whether pursed in anger, pressed together in resentment or reaching up to the side of your face with a smile, it’s fairly easy to tell what you think. Remember to keep your mouth neutral and allow positive emotions to show. A natural smile will help put your remote worker at ease. Keep in mind that a fake smile is distinguishable by the fact that it generally doesn’t reach your eyes. Be yourself but also be aware of the visual cues your body language is giving off. You and your remote worker want to have a positive encounter and knowing the ins and outs of your facial expressions will help. For a more in-depth look at how to communicate with your remote workers check out our article here.


Upper Body Language Cues Managers Need to Know

Shoulders – Probably the biggest physical cue on your state of mind lies in the position of your shoulders. Some of you may recall back in the day when you were an angsty teenager and nobody understood you so you walked around the house (or possibly brooded at the nearby Hot Topic) with your shoulders slouched. Whether or not you were aware of it, you were given off a negative vibe. One that says you lack confidence or self-esteem. In fact, Forbes labels slouching as a sign of “laziness or arrogance.” When you’re speaking to a remote worker, as a remote manager, you want to give off confidence and energy. It’s a good idea to sit up straight with your torso faced towards the video call.    

Posture – Similarly to your shoulders, your posture is also a good indicator of your mood. To let your remote worker know that you’re interested with your body language, lean forward during the conversation to signal to them you’re engaged. Leaning back with your arms crossed can signal displeasure or annoyance. However, leaning back with your arms behind your head can mean you’re enjoying yourself. In our article about how to avoid managing poorly, we point out that without any sort of video interactions may cause your remote worker to “feel less of a connection with you if your only communication is via email.” It’s a good idea to bear in mind how important these interactions and visual cues will be for your remote employee. To read the full article click here.

Body Language and remote managers

The Best Hand Gestures for Remote Managers

Hand Gesture – Hand gestures can be a great way to communicate. In fact, with the absence of actually being in the room with your remote worker, using hand gestures can demonstrate your feelings even better during a video call. It’s also a great way to keep your remote worker’s attention. Positive gestures could include a thumbs up (a sign of encouragement) or the finger steeple (conveys thoughtfulness or confidence). Negative gestures would include palms forward in the stop gesture or pinching the bridge of your nose (frustration or annoyance).

Arm Position – The arms can convey an important message. If crossed, they could be saying “I’m dissatisfied”. Furthermore, the act of crossing your arms is such a powerful defensive mechanism that it’s your body’s natural way of protecting vital organs from harm. Even while sitting in your office chair, crossing your arms can come across negatively in a big way.

Openness – Having your arms either on your desk or gesturing widely in excitement are good ways to show your openness to your remote worker and building a good repertoire will not only give you confidence in your remote worker, but it will also allow them to build that trust that is so needed in a distant remote working position. In fact, we pointed out in our video communication article that “this face-to-face contact not only leads to more trust between the people talking but helps get rid of the possibility of misinterpretations.”

Believe it or not, body language for remote managers really does matter. While we don’t expect you to be on cloud 9 each time you video chat with your digital worker, (if you are in need of conflict resolution tips we have the perfect article for you here), it is important to be aware of the message you’re sending. Both verbal and nonverbal.

So if you’re ready to go digital and take advantage of the enormous talent we have readily available at our steepled fingertips, get in touch with DistantJob today!

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Casey Shull

Casey Shull

Casey Shull is a freelance writer who works with DistantJob to research and synthesise the best remote work related content into practical, accurate and actionable guides and articles on how to improve remote leadership and better manage your teams.