When we look back on the evolution of the modern workforce, we will likely see 2020 as an inflection point: the year when businesses suddenly reshaped themselves for remote work.

In fact, the trend toward remote work and virtual collaboration has been in place for many years. However, the drifting trend suddenly became a mandate for many workers as COVID-19 gripped the world in early 2020.

It wasn’t that long ago that some high-profile companies pushed back against the gradual shift toward telecommuting. In 2013 then-CEO of Yahoo Marissa Mayer banned employees from working remotely. Soon after, former Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly nixed the company’s “Results-Only Work Environment,” which had allowed employees to work from home.

Even then, Mayer and Joly were swimming against the current, as a growing body of research supported the efficacy of virtual teams in the workplace.

A few short years and one pandemic later, the discussion has changed. It is no longer a question of whether a remote workforce is a viable business strategy, but of how best to implement virtual teams.

The Future of the Workplace: A World Goes Remote

What began as a means of keeping employees safe quickly became a “new normal” for large swaths of the workforce.

In fact, as of this writing, we are far from knowing exactly how this new normal and the future of the workplace will play out. What is clear is the broad embrace of an increasingly remote workforce. While it is noteworthy when tech giants like Twitter fully embrace a remote workforce, the trend also extends to many companies and industries like Nationwide Insurance and many others.

Benefits and Challenges to Virtual Teams

Is the home office the future of the workplace? A survey in Remote.co asked workers what they felt were the biggest benefits of working remotely and nearly every respondent mentioned “freedom” or “flexibility.” Freedom from an arduous commute, to live where they choose, to be closer to their families throughout the day; flexibility to work more productively and achieve a better work-life balance.

On the other hand, adjusting to working from home isn’t without its challenges. Another survey shows some workers struggle with a sense of isolation, staying focused, and defining work boundaries with friends and family.

Communicating in a Virtual World

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of working virtually is communication: getting our message across when we literally don’t see each other eye-to-eye.

“Virtual communication isn’t easy,” writes Tracy Brower in Forbes. Be intentional about how you use virtual channels and how you communicate with as much effectiveness as possible during hard times—your career may depend on it.”

In any setting, effective communication goes a long way in strengthening understanding, collaboration, and cooperation. As we spend more of our workday in virtual settings, clear communication is as important as ever.

The good news is that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel to communicate well online. A skilled communicator approaches communication as an art and science. Just as importantly, she applies influential communication in all formats: face-to-face, written, and online.

The Influential Communicator Business Certificate

You can advance your communication skills to adapt to a dynamic, changing world with the Influential Communicator business certificate.

Offered both online and in-residence from the Kelley School of Business Executive Education, this certificate will expand your communication skills for any audience or venue. You’ll learn ways to enhance your credibility, influence, and persuasiveness, especially important as we communicate increasingly online,

The in-residence program is a week of daylong courses on the Bloomington, Indiana, campus. Online, the program consists of a 12-week curriculum, divided into four three-week courses. Students can expect three to four hours of study per week in the online portion of the program. Half of that time is spent in live synchronous classroom sessions.

Areas of study include:

  • Communicate to enhance your credibility: Influential communication requires trust. Learn how to build your credibility quotient and build trust with your colleagues. Identify your strengths and weaknesses with verbal and nonverbal communication. Understand how you can enhance both in your virtual communications.
  • Communicate to inspire: In this course, practice organizing your thoughts to create clear and concise messages. You’ll also learn how to produce compelling data visualizations.
  • Communicate to influence: Influential communication requires trust and authority. This is a challenge, especially when technology mediates our communication. Learn the art of storytelling and emotional appeal. In this course, you’ll prepare and record an award presentation. You’ll review your recording with your coaches. This is great practice for learning how to deliver inspirational speech.
  • Communicate with authenticity and flexibility: With a Kelley School assessment, you’ll learn your communication style. Explore your natural communication preferences, strengths, and weaknesses. Discover how to align your communication style to the task at hand.
  • Communicate in difficult situations (in-residence only): In this course, you’re in the “hot seat.” Learn how to handle contentious meetings, hostile questions, and conflict. Attribution error is a common cognitive bias we all share. Succumbing to it can lead to misunderstanding and discord. This is often exacerbated in virtual settings without many of the cues to which we are accustomed in face-to-face communication. Practice facilitating a “meeting-gone-wrong” and minimizing many of the pitfalls and inherent biases we have in difficult circumstances. You’ll review the results of your hot-seat experience with your coach.

Online and off, communication is the key to success.

Students emerge from the program better communicators. You’ll be able to adjust and adapt your natural communication style to any audience or format. With the Influential Communicator Business Certificate, you’ll have the advanced communication skills you’ll need to influence, motivate, and inspire those around you.