How to strengthen remote communication

Worker using computer

Tips for improving online communication

With many companies working remotely for the first time, companies are adjusting to learning how to remotely communicate.

For companies that have experience working with remote employees, this transition will probably go more smoothly. Still, there is always room to improve existing processes.

Remote work intensifies the need to ensure succinct and effective communication methods. You also need to decide which medium is appropriate for the conversation topic.

The problem with email

Remote communication can be a bit tricky because many non-verbal cues that are key to in-person communication are now absent. Tools like Slack, Microsoft teams, and email eliminate body language and tone — non-verbal cues of communication that make up the bulk of how we understand other humans.

The receiver can easily misinterpret messages without non-verbal cues. That’s why, when communicating remotely, it is important to be extra mindful before pressing send.

Am I using the right tool?

Go for video first

It would be best to schedule a video call if the topic will require a bit of back and forth dialogue or if you expect questions to arise. It’s important to see other people’s faces when discussing important topics. Video calls are the appropriate medium here.

Also, answering questions is easier on video compared to on email or Slack because the response is more immediate. It could also be appropriate to schedule a quick, five to 10 minute call to clarify any issues.

Instant messaging through Slack

If you need a quick response to a less pressing question or are just checking in, it might be best to use a messaging platform like Slack. Programs like Slack facilitate all-day communication between teams. The benefit of using a program like Slack is you will most likely get an immediate response because most people check frequently throughout the day and receive alert banners. Also, the receiver can respond when they have a moment, making it less time consuming to clarify issues for both parties.

When to use email

At Standard Beagle, we typically save email correspondence for clients or to complete other admin duties. In other workplaces, an email could be used as an alternative if the messaging platforms are not available for you. If you rely on email for communication, then be sure to check periodically throughout the day.

Stand-ups and huddles

We’ve found that having check-in meetings at the beginning and end of the day helps eliminate some back and forth conversations. These conversations were in person when our entire team was in office. They are impossible now.

These check-in meetings are typically quick 20 minute meetings. And they allow us to address any blocks we may have.

The meetings keep everyone on the same page, provide focus, and build morale. At the end of the day we share what we accomplished and our “wins.” This is a time for accountability. It’s framed in a positive way to keep us moving forward. This is when our team tends to laugh and smile the most.

Am I communicating effectively?

Wage war on jargon

Nothing derails communication more than dense text filled with jargon.

Be sure you are wording your sentences in a way that makes sense. Think about the receiver’s level of familiarity with workplace jargon. Read what you wrote and make sure you are covering all the main points. Choose your words wisely and be sure you communicate in a way that anyone would understand.

It’s better to over-communicate, providing a bit too much detail, then to under-communicate. Communicating your point clearly will encourage group understanding and prevent a lot of extra back and forth messaging. Sometimes that means adding a bit of extra detail.

It is also important to let the sender know you received the message. A quick thank you, or a thumbs-up emoji is enough to communicate that you received the message. Or, if it is a request to do a task, note that you can get to it later in the day or whenever you are free. Confirming messages set an expectation, eliminating the need for either party to reach out again because of confusion or misinterpreted messages.

Key takeaways about working remotely

Understanding how to communicate using remote mediums is important and can take a bit of practice, but will eliminate some headaches for both parties.

The goal is to be heard, to be understood, and to be as effective as possible, saving time for yourself and your typical workplace duties.