Your communication may be top tier face to face, but have you assessed your communication skills for successful remote work? We believe communication is the number one skill needed to be a great remote worker, and we’re offering unique and accessible tips to ensure your messaging is purposeful, appropriate and respectful. If you’re interested in more training on this topic, check out our Communication in Teams When Consulting course.
Bring People Together
We often think about the physical distance experienced as a team, whether remote or in different office locations. However, a more novel concept is distance beyond the physical. Think about the conceptual distances, such as the ways people work, their values and skills, the ways they interact with other teammates. Understanding and aligning values—not just those that are company-defined, but a layer deeper in terms of personal values—helps bring the team together. Physical distance can enhance these personal differences in work styles and preferences, so ensuring a broader focus on values will keep employees engaged and successful at remote work.
Things to do
- Host team-building and collaboration meetings that are fun, yet informative and engaging. Have virtual team celebrations for events that used to be celebrated in office, such as birthdays, work anniversaries, weddings, baby showers, etc.
- Learn each other’s communication and work styles with different personality analyses. These can go far beyond the standard Meyers Briggs and provide an opportunity to know each other better, identify predictable behaviors and understand how personalities best work together.
- Engage your colleagues throughout your communication. Ensure new team members receive a warm welcome with an announcement email. If you’ve done a team personality analysis in the past, have them take the analysis and factor it into the overall team outcomes. Have someone new share a fun photo at each team meeting—maybe it’s a photo from a recent staycation, a new puppy or a virtual wedding. Or maybe they offer up a fun fact, trivia quiz or newest home entertainment idea.
- Reward your team members for milestones or a job well done. Find prizes they will be excited about—an early Friday, extra day off, a late-morning start. Reallocate your team building budgets from those in-person lunches to things like gift cards for an online experience or lunch delivery. Think outside of the box.
- Encourage networking with non-team members. Helping your team connect with others outside of their department can bring the whole company together with new perspectives and ideas. Virtual coffee dates, like those facilitated by the Slack Donut app, are a great way to do this.
Networking Within Your Organization
Nicole Hudson was featured in the New York Post’s article “How to make an impression and get noticed while working remotely.” Here are her tips on networking and the benefits that can come of it:
“Every month, challenge yourself to schedule two or three virtual coffee dates with people you haven’t connected with before. Don’t be shy about sending blind emails to execs and peers on different teams. It may be a cold call now, but you could very well be forging a long-term strategic ally for down the line. Focus on building the relationship, staying present and finding ways to help so you’re top of mind for recognition and promotion,” said Hudson. “Differentiate from other Zoom meetings by creating a different atmosphere.“
Hudson suggests you move away from your desk to another area in your home or even outside — doing so will underscore the personal connection you’re hoping to foster and make the other party feel more relaxed.
What not to do
Communication skills for successful remote work do not include:
- Online monitoring (i.e. watching when someone is or is not “away” from their instant messaging platform)
- Setting unrealistic response times (causing a breakdown in remote team collaboration)
- Acting like a babysitter
Avoiding these traits will build trust and productivity within the team as they feel a deeper sense of ownership in their roles.
Keep Communication Clear, Concise & Timely
Strong, meaningful communication is the best preventative measure for conflicts, issues and miscommunication. In an office, you have more chances to quickly correct any mistakes, discuss the topic at hand in the few minutes it takes to walk back to your desk, or clarify any questions with a quick pop-in to the boss’ office. In remote work, these things aren’t easily possible, with more competition for attention in the barrage of emails and instant messages. It’s important to make your communication count.
Things to do
- Ensure the appropriate audience attends. Take the time to identify the correct participants for your meeting invites. Most of us are overscheduled, but if we know meeting requests are sent when our presence is truly needed, less multi-tasking will occur. If decisions are needed, confirm in advance the decision-makers will be present.
- Keep meetings concise and distribute an agenda in advance for others to prepare. Present the information needed to people who need it — high level to leaders and details to the core participants. If there is extra time at the end, give that back to employees instead of moving to a new topic.
- Ensure roles and responsibilities are understood so the appropriate people are responsible for meeting notes and follow-ups.
- If you host a regular standing meeting, take a minute to confirm there are no questions from the prior meeting and follow-up on outstanding items.
- Put meeting notes and decisions in writing so they are clearly documented. If a key member of a project was unavailable (i.e., a senior leader was double booked), communicate with them directly to deliver the information they need. Manage this approach appropriately so colleagues do not consistently miss meetings.
- After the meeting, send a recap email with action items along with deadlines. Put action items at the start with clearly highlighted owners and due dates as this will be the first thing people read. Keep things concise and easy to read to prevent emails from being skipped or skimmed.
- Prioritize your communications. Core project team members who need answers to move forward with their work can likely be prioritized over other emails, phone calls and instant messages. Be available and accessible for your team to ask questions, whether through set office hours, a way to notify you of something urgent and check-ins.
Be Respectful of Employee’s Time and Needs
It’s no different with in-person work vs. remote work, that time is of the essence. To make sure your employees are getting the most out of their workday, remain cognizant of how you and they are spending their time.
Things to do
- Schedule meetings to end a few minutes early so people can complete follow-ups, take a bathroom break, etc.
- Keep meetings purposeful, on track and only invite those who need to be in attendance.
- Stay focused. If you display and lead a culture of non-multi-tasking, your employees will follow suit.
- Be cognizant of time zones. Identify the best working times for your group and schedule accordingly.
- Plan for asynchronous communication, which means extra time to get answers or feedback.
- Openly communicate your availability, but also offer flexibility. Management can help create that culture of flexibility in order to support cross-time-zone communication while still maintaining boundaries between work and personal life.
- Schedule your work time. Find the method that works for you by dedicating chunks of time for meetings or specific meeting days. Block time to focus on project work without distractions, and take the last hour of your day to wrap up and plan for the day ahead.
Communication Skills for Successful Remote Work
We’d Love to Work with You
Struggling in your new remote work environment? Not sure how to stay on task? We’d love to help you overcome remote work challenges you’re facing! Contact us and we’ll set up a free consultation call to discuss how we can help.