Remote work is becoming a popular trend nowadays, not only for freelancers but also many companies. But that does not mean people working from home are entirely alone. No matter where you work, you will eventually need to communicate with your colleagues, one way or another. On top of that, there are certain challenges in remote work communication since your team do not meet face to face. It can be pretty difficult, especially when this is the first time you try teleworking. In that case, here are the 10 ways to make your remote work communication more effective!
These are methods that our team has found great success with, and so we would like to share with you here.
Remote Work Communication Tip 1: Get Online Communication Tools ASAP
If you do not have any online communication tool in your computer, now is the time to get one. Some people may think that using mobile text message and email is enough, yet in reality, it can cause disruption and annoyance more than productivity. When you send mobile message or email, there is always a delay between the time you send email and when your co-workers actually read it. Thus, this sort of delay in communication will only waste precious time especialy during remote work.
Thanksfully, remote work communication tools can provide a much better, more consistent communication with your team. It is rather easy to find these tools or online platforms that offer online chat and meeting service. Some of the most popular remote work communication tools are Skype (featuring both chat and video call service) and Zoom (specialized in online meeting, conference). And when you choose one, be sure to discuss with your team and agree on which tool your team need to use.
Remote Work Communication Tip 2: Use Project Management Tool to manage team's progress
Although this is not directly related to remote work communication, having clear goals, tasks, and deadlines can actually help maintain good communication between team members. Aside from letting the team knows precisely what to do, it also lets the team understand what they need to achieve together and which tasks are being done by who. In addition, it will prevent unnecessary confusion between members. And you do not need to spend too much time asking each person what he/she is working from home.
To make managing tasks and goals much easier, it is highly recommended to use a project management tool or platform. Like online communication, there are many project management tools you can find on the internet. Many among them also provide forever plan that offer quite generous features. One suggestion is Trello that allows you to add 10 projects with Free Plan, plus there is no actual limit to the amount of members you can add to each one.
Remote Work Communication Tip 3: Agree on working time & communication methods
When you work at the office, there is always a clear schedule each day. You always know when you need to go to work, when you can have a lunch break, when your workday is done. But things are much different when you start working from home. It is difficult to keep track of teammates’ worktime. For this reason, you will have to make sure your team agree on worktime (e.g. when the team need to be online, when the team stop working, etc…). Aside from team’s schedule, each member may also have their own schedule at home. Therefore, it is also highly recommended for each member to share their remote work schedule. That way, the team can collaborate much better by knowing when is the time to contact each other.
Remote Work Communication Tip 4: Share with Team what you will do & what you have done
This is a method that our team has been adapting for our remote work and it works quite well. The idea is that: at the start of the remote work day, each member will share what he/she will do for the day, and, what he/she has done at the end of the day. By all mean, this method is not about supervising each other’s job. Its primary purpose is to let your teammate knows what you are planning at the moment and keep them engaged. Thus, it will help the team provide quick and necessary support when a member faces a trouble.
Remote Work Communication Tip 5: Focus on Results instead of constant supervision
Believe it or not, remote work actually began decades ago since 1979. One of the pioneer companies that applies teleworking was IBM. It was among the company’s strategies, yet after years of practicing, the company suddenly changed its policy and make employees return to the office. Their reason was that remote work was not as productive as working at the office. But the question is: Is it really true?
As the matter of fact, there are already many studies proved that remote work can be as effective as traditional working at the office, if not more effective. So why does many people find great success with it, while IBM seemed not? It is hard to have a clear answer, but there is a suggestion that it is due to the “wrong mindset”.
As we already mentioned before, working from home is vastly different from working at the office. In the office, it is so easy for managers/boss to supervise your workday. They do that to ensure you are doing what you are supposed to do. However, how can they supervise when you are working from home? This is when the “office mindset” needs to change. The advantage of remote work is to provide employees more freedom while still be able to ensure a good result. Supposedly if the employees truly care about their work, they already have incentives to perform well. And so this gives birth to a new idea of working: focusing on results instead of supervising employees’ work all the time.
The idea makes sense because at home, you cannot just supervise employees like you do in the office. You cannot just call them or send them message every single hour just to make sure they are doing their job. From the employee’s perspective, such practice only backfires as it causes extreme annoyance. Furthermore, it actually disrupts employees’ concentration and progress, which is the last thing you want to see while working.
Remote Work Communication Tip 6: Don't hesitate to call for important matters
While teleworking, chatting about trivial things is not a good idea since all your team need to focus on their work. There are already so many distractions when working from home, so you definitely do not want to cause or face any additional distraction.
That being said, it does not mean you have to stay silence for rest of the day. If there is important matter, do not hesitate to chat with your teammate. And if the matter is serious, or it is difficult to convey by text, you can ask the team for a call. Your team will definitely pay attention when there is important issue and they will glad to discuss with you. Keeping the issue to yourself only makes the work more diffcult. And on top of all, openly sharing the issues will help the team engaged and improve the team’s productivity as a whole.
Remote Work Communication Tip 7: Do not spam emails or text messages
Early on, we did discuss about how managers can disrupt employees by constant supervision with email or text messages. This is actually a recommendation for the whole team, not just team leader or manager. Specifically, it is best to avoid spamming emails or text messages to your co-workers. Everytime your worker needs to check your email or message, they waste a part of their time on reading what you sent them. The wasted time can be small, but too many emails and messages can lead to extreme frustration and huge time consumption. Not only that, such spammy practice may make your colleagues feel like their personal life is disturbed. So if you really need to send them important information, try to convey everything you want to say in a clear, precise email or message. Always get to the point and explain the exact facts, and your message will be good to go.
Remote Work Communication Tip 8: Communicate clearly
This may sound obvious, which it does, but to actual communicate clearly can still be a difficult for many people. The problem is: how can you sure your message is truly clear? This question is important because many people believe their colleagues will understand what they say. Yet in fact, those colleagues do not. There can be two main problems for this:
- Using norms to send short messages: This is not exactly wrong, but are you sure that your co-workers understand these norms or acronyms? Your friends may understand “brb” as “be right back”, but your co-workers may not.
- Sending too long messages: On the contrary, certain people like to write a lot because they believe it is clear. But the problem is: no one can spend so much time on reading a single email or message.
- If you want to use norms & acronyms, always make sure if your colleagues know and agree with it first.
- There is no rule of how long your message must be. But the overall goal is: make sure that the message gets straight to the point, and it contains only necessary facts to explain the matter.
Remote Work Communication Tip 9: Encourage constructive feedback and positive comments
Working from home can be really, really lonely and boring at times. If this is your first time teleworking, you may feel excited since you do not have to go to the office. You can do your work at home while still having your own freedom. Yet eventually, the bore will kick in: there is no one to talk with, only you facing the computer screen whole day.
In this case, it is a good idea to give each other encouragements to keep the team motivated. Nowadays, we can break the distance boundary by chatting and meeting online. Sometimes your teammate may ẽpress . In those cases, it is highly recommended to give constructive feedback to help them solve issue quickly. Also, you can give them some encouraging comment to give them incentive to return to work. Occassinally, doing celebration online (e.g. birthday) is also a great idea to strengthen people’s relationship and cooperation.