After the events of 2020, remote work became normal. However, companies and individuals are still struggling, especially when it comes to communications.
I have been working remotely for six years now, but I remember how hard it was when I decided to make the shift. That’s why I feel it’s important to share these communications tips for remote work.
Originally, I had been working with my team for a little over a year when I decided to move to another country and continue with the contract remotely. Communication with everyone at the office was the hardest part.
I felt alienated and like an outsider. The company was not used to having remote workers, even when it was a global company with offices in more than 14 countries around the world. I lasted less than a year at that big company after going remotely.
Fast forward five years: I have now worked with two different companies where their teams are 100% distributed. Both have a remote work culture that supports team building and successful communications.
In this time, I have found my golden rules when it comes to communication for remote work. I love remote working so much that I don’t think I would be able to go back to an office five times a week. Here are my tips.
Choose the Right Tools
If we review the basic communication diagram, it is composed of a sender, a receiver, the message, and the channel. While the channel is always a crucial element of every communication, in remote communication, it plays an even more important role.
Nowadays, there are so many digital communication tools. Choosing the right one might seem like a daunting task. From email providers, project management software, ticketing systems, instant messaging, and video conferencing, the list seems never-ending.
Different Situations Require Different Tools
With all of this, I’m not saying that you should choose only one tool. There’s not such a thing as one size fits all.
What I’m trying to say is that depending on the message, the channel should be different. For example, it is better to use a video conferencing tool such as Zoom when you are presenting a new idea or design to a client.
In another instance, a simple email should be enough for sending an update regarding project status. For internal teams, a quick Slack message is enough for communicating that you are out for lunch, but a ticket is better when you need to assign a task to a coworker.
My first communication tip for remote work is to make sure you are choosing the right channel for each situation. If you are curious about what we use at WebDevStudios, we wrote a blog post about our communication tools.
Continuing with the communication diagram, we see that another important aspect of communication is that the message needs to be encoded by the sender and decoded by the receiver.
When we don’t know the person we are communicating with, or when we come from different cultures and backgrounds, this is even more complicated. Therefore, over-communication is always preferred.
One of my favorite ways to over-communicate is to ask questions. Questions allow you to get more information and to make sure that you understand what is being said.
On the other hand, as a sender, you can ask questions or ask the receiver to paraphrase what you just said to make sure you’re both on the same page. A very common mistake is to think we communicated adequately when in fact, the message being understood is completely different.
Another communication tip for remote work is this—add visuals to help. As a project manager, one of my responsibilities is to create and assign tasks to developers. When I’m describing a frontend change, I always like to add a screenshot or visual aid to help my team understand what I’m trying to say.
See These Scenarios
Scenario 1: I create a task that reads as follows, “Home page: change the color of the CTA ‘learn more’ that is located next to the ‘Get Started Today’ button to orange.”
Scenario 2. I create a task that reads as follows and includes a screenshot, “Home page: change the ‘learn more’ CTA font color to orange #F4713D.”
In Scenario 1, if I’ve been working with that same developer for a long time and this project is all they have on their plate, they would probably understand it.
However, more often than not, our teammates are working on several projects and tasks at the same time. They don’t have the time to invest in trying to understand my instructions.
They might choose the wrong orange or would have to spend time going through the brand’s style guide to find the correct orange. Others might return the task back to me asking more questions.
In the end, that is time that we’re losing. Plus, our working relationship will be affected since they will feel that I’m making them lose their time by sending half-baked tasks.
In Scenario 2, even if this is the first time communicating with this person, the message is easy to understand due to the visual aid included. Over-communication allows us to add more context and information to make sure that the message being sent and received is the same.
One area where I think many people new to remote working struggle the most is speaking up. We all know that micromanagement is never a good tactic. It takes too much time for the manager to do it, and it makes the employee feel like they’re not trusted.
When we are managed in terms of outcomes, there’s no easy way for the rest of the team to know what are we working on and how are we doing until the project or task is finished.
This is why speaking up is a great communication tip for remote work. Let your team and manager know what are you working on. Plus, tell them if you have any challenges or require assistance.
Many teams that follow a Scrum framework, use daily scrum meetings to do exactly this. However, daily scrums are only 15 minutes and many things might be left unsaid.
I encourage you to speak up TODAY!
- Do you think the technology selected for a project is not the correct one? Say it!
- You don’t understand a task you received and have some questions? Ask them!
- Do you have a new idea to save costs on a project your team is working on? Speak up!
- Are you up to your neck and need help to finish on time? Ask for help!
Some of these situations are easier to be solved when we are in an office together. Your team can literally see you staying late at the office and arriving super early. Or, your teammates notice that you’re skipping lunch or not talking to anyone.
It is easy to realize that you might need help if the team wants to finish before the due date. But if they’re not seeing you and you don’t say anything, how are they going to know what you’re going through?
Bonus Tip: Don’t Forget That You Work with People
Something that I’ve seen a lot when working remotely is that coworkers’ communications get reduced to work-related conversations. Make an effort to remind yourself that you are working with humans.
Take the time to know them and how they like to communicate. I find it a lot easier to work with people with whom I have taken the time to connect with. It allows me to understand them, their background and make the proper adjustments to my communications.
Whether you want it or not, remote work is here to stay. One of the best ways to adapt to it is to improve your communication skills.
Are you looking for a team of technologists and project managers who know how to successfully communicate in a remote work environment while building amazing websites? Contact website agency WebDevStudios.