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Remote work has a wealth of benefits, but there’s no question that your ability to communicate intent to colleagues, team members, and customers is weaker compared to a face-to-face meeting. All of the subtle body language, voice tones, and facial expressions you use to signify the real meaning behind your words are lost when you communicate only by the written word, and this can lead to some misunderstandings.
If you’re a hard-working yet introverted person, working from home can seem like an escape from a lot of the social nuances of a traditional office that seem to waste a lot of time.
Yes, it’s great that you can message someone unobtrusively and give them time to respond to you when it’s convenient for them. But while it is true that you can perform most of your duties without much human contact, it is often quicker to phone someone or start up a video chat when a complex situation arises.
Use All of the Tools at Your Disposal
Thankfully, your home office has all of the communication tools you need to simulate a traditional office environment. Make your team aware that they can contact you via voice or video messaging any time they have a question or problem. Ask them to call you sometimes just so they get used to it.
Depending on your line of work, you could find yourself spending most of your day on video conferences, so use a tool that you’re comfortable with and one that is easy for everyone to use.
But don’t use a popular social media tool for team communication – it’ll only end up being a distraction. Use a dedicated communication tool that’s designed for the business that’s built into your project management software or one that can interface with it.
Check-in with Your Team More Often
Working from home doesn’t mean you need to become a permanent hermit. Meeting your team in person periodically if possible keeps everyone on the same page and mitigates most communication problems that can creep in from working remotely. Set an agenda that you know will involve everyone so that everyone has a chance to speak and you’ll be better able to gauge how they are handling remote work.
If you’re running a team remotely who are not used to working from home, consider that many of them may miss a lot of the social aspects of a traditional workplace. Take time to discuss life with your team on a one-to-one basis, even if just through a live video meeting.
With a fully remote team, it can take more effort to get that camaraderie flowing that seems to come naturally in a traditional workplace. Think of ways you can get the entire group interacting as a unit even if their individual roles are different.
Make Your Work from Home Availability Clear
With the mountain of available communication channels we have now, we sometimes expect a colleague to get back to us straight away. If they don’t – are they skipping work? Are they avoiding contact? Are they swamped? Do they consider me unimportant?
Minimize this type of confusion by having a direct line of contact that you use over other methods. Communicate your time zone and usual working hours. If possible, use a single messaging system across your team that shows a status of whether they’re available, busy, or away from their desk.
Assume Positive Intent
Text chat messaging is seriously limited when it comes to expression. It’s all too easy to misconstrue a short remark as flippant, rude, or lazy. If someone replies to a request with simply ‘fine,’ you might start second-guessing the tone in which their reply is meant. What did they mean?
In fact, many people are just used to using a certain amount of brevity in text communication. Text chat messaging is always less formal and doesn’t require perfect spelling and grammar.
Unless you have a strong reason to believe otherwise, read everyone’s communication with the assumption that they have positive intent.
Think about how you write messages in chat and email and how you might come across. Consider using emojis in text chat messaging if you think your tone is not clear. Of course, there’s no need to go overboard! JJ