Since the pandemic struck the world, working from home has become more popular. But, despite all the perks of working from home, it also poses challenges in terms of communication.
It can be difficult to maintain effective communication with colleagues and managers without in-office settings and face-to-face interactions. This what makes strong communication skills are critical if you want to succeed as a virtual employee.
So, whether you’re a seasoned remote worker or new to the game, if you’re looking to brush up on your verbal and written interactions with colleagues, read on to find out how to stay connected and get things done from the comfort of your own home.
The Challenges of Remote Communication
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let’s find out why remote communication is one of the biggest challenges most employees face while working remotely.
First, remote communication lacks face-to-face interaction. Without being in the same room, it can be harder to read nonverbal cues and tone, which can lead to misunderstandings. Misunderstandings can then cause confusion and delay projects. Additionally, with the potential for distractions at home, it can be harder to maintain focus and keep up with communication.
Another challenge is the potential for communication overload. With the increase in communication channels such as email, instant messaging, and video conferencing, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the constant influx of messages and notifications. Also, there may be a tendency to overcompensate for the lack of in-person interaction by sending more messages and scheduling more meetings.
Moreover, cultural differences in communication style can pose a challenge when working with colleagues from different parts of the world. Different cultures have different communication styles, tones, and nonverbal communication. It is important to be mindful of these differences and adjust your communication style accordingly.
However, by being aware of these challenges and implementing strategies to overcome them, effective communication can still be achieved when working remotely. In the following section, we will take a look at some tips to help you communicate effectively while working from home.
How to Communicate Effectively While Working from Home?
Working from home means no coffee break talks and water-cooler moments. Not only does it become hard for employees to stay in touch and catch up with each other, but it also leads to feelings of isolation and disconnection.
When working in an office, coffee break talks and water-cooler moments are often the informal opportunities for employees to socialize, share ideas, and build relationships with their colleagues. Without these opportunities, employees may feel disconnected from their colleagues and the company culture, which can negatively impact job satisfaction and productivity.
Therefore, finding ways to stay connected and build relationships while working remotely is essential for effective communication and team collaboration.
Set up a communication plan
The first step should be establishing a clear communication plan with your team and manager. This plan should outline the preferred methods of communication, response times, and expectations for communication.
By establishing clear guidelines for communication, you can avoid misunderstandings, missed deadlines, and other issues that may arise due to communication gaps.
Some important elements of a communication plan include:
- Communication Channels: Determine the preferred communication channels for your team, such as email, instant messaging, or video conferencing. It’s important to choose effective and efficient channels for the type of communication you need. For example, a video call may be more effective than a chat message if you need to discuss a complex project.
- Response Times: Establish guidelines for how quickly you and your team members should respond to messages. This can vary depending on the message’s urgency and team members’ availability. By setting clear expectations for response times, you can avoid delays and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
- Meeting Schedules: Determine how often you and your team members should meet and what types of meetings are necessary. This can include regular team meetings, one-on-one meetings with your manager, and ad-hoc meetings to discuss specific projects or issues.
- Communication Etiquette: Establish guidelines for how communication should be conducted, including tone, language, and appropriate use of emojis or other forms of digital communication. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and maintain a professional tone.
Consider creating a shareable format to distribute the communication plan (i.e., explainer videos, Google Docs, etc.). This makes it easier for all employees and colleagues to access the plan whenever they need to.
Limit the tools
It can be tempting to use every communication tool available to stay connected with your team. However, too many tools can lead to communication overload and confusion. Every app or tool has its own notifications.
That’s why it’s important to limit the number of tools you use to communicate with your team, and to use them effectively.
So, how do you pick the right ones? Here’s a quick checklist:
- Identify Essential Tools: Determine which communication tools are essential for your team’s workflow. This may include email, instant messaging, and video conferencing. Avoid using redundant or unnecessary tools, as they can create confusion and waste time.
- Streamline Communication: Use tools that allow for streamlined communication, such as project management software or collaboration tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams. These tools can centralize communication and keep everyone on the same page.
- Train Your Team: Make sure that everyone on your team is trained in how to use the essential communication tools. This can include providing training materials or hosting training sessions to ensure that everyone is using the tools effectively.
Establish clear expectations
Setting clear expectations with your colleagues and managers is also essential. This means defining what is expected of each team member in terms of communication. This can include expectations around response times, the frequency and format of updates, and the use of specific communication tools.
By clearly defining expectations, everyone on the team knows what they need to do to stay connected and collaborate effectively. Clear expectations also help create a sense of accountability and can prevent misunderstandings from arising due to differing assumptions about communication norms.
Practice active listening
Communication skill isn’t all about how you talk to your colleagues or managers, but also involve how you listen to them. In other words, active listening is an important skill when communicating remotely.
It involves paying attention to what the other person is saying, clarifying any misunderstandings, and providing feedback. This can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and can lead to more effective communication.
Schedule regular check-ins
Regular check-ins with your colleagues and managers can help maintain effective communication. This can be done through video conferencing or instant messaging. It also helps to schedule regular team meetings to discuss progress, challenges, and upcoming projects.
Be mindful of cultural differences
When working with colleagues from different cultural backgrounds, it is important to be mindful of cultural differences in communication. This includes differences in communication style, tone, and nonverbal communication. Take the time to understand these differences and adjust your communication style accordingly.
When working remotely, it can be easy to fall into the trap of only communicating when necessary. However, it is important to be proactive in your communication. This includes reaching out to colleagues to check in, providing updates on your progress, and asking for feedback.
In today’s remote work environment, effective communication is more important than ever. Working from home presents unique challenges that require intentional effort to overcome. By setting clear expectations, conducting regular check-ins, and limiting the number of communication tools, remote teams can foster effective communication and collaboration. Ultimately, prioritizing communication and connection is key to the success of any remote team.
Andre Oentoro is the founder of Breadnbeyond, an award-winning explainer video company. He helps businesses increase conversion rates, close more sales, and get positive ROI from explainer videos (in that order).