You have to communicate differently when you work remotely. It’s not harder than face-to-face, it’s just different.
And we’ve got the lowdown on how to communicate effectively remotely and you’ll be amazed at how easy it is.
Learn To Check People’s Understanding Of What You Say
Even the most eloquent of communicators can be talking and find the words are flying right over the heads of their intended audience.
In fact, research suggests that as little as 50% of communication in business is fully understood by the receiver!
You need to check in with people and get them to relay your message back to you, so that you can be sure that they’ve understood.
And if they haven’t? Don’t get frustrated. Learn from it and communicate better next time.
Be Clear About What You Want And Why
Before you send someone an email asking them to do something, make sure you have a clear intent and you can communicate it.
You need to:
- Make it clear what they are expected to do – “I want 25 copies of the brief sent to the board.”
- Make it clear when they are expected to have it done by – “They need this for the board meeting on Friday, so everyone must get it by noon on Thursday.”
- Be clear, is there anyone they should work with? “James in accounts has the reports, you’ll need to get them from him and then talk to the courier to get them sent out.”
- Show, why does it matter? “The board has to decide on our new brand strategy and this report is essential to that decision.”
And then before you hit send, read it yourself, does it make sense? If not, edit it now.
Try To Avoid Vague Language
Some words aren’t clear in written communication. Particularly “It, That and This.” But also “They, Them”.
Try this sentence; “I sent it to them and they said this isn’t what they needed but they would appreciate it if we did that, instead.”
It makes perfect sense when said aloud but… it also means nothing at all.
What is it? What is this? What is that? Who are they or them?
“I sent the report to the board and they said it wasn’t what they needed but they would appreciate it if we still sent the other report out instead.”
Now, the recipient has some hope of understanding what you mean.
Context Matters And So Do Timescales And Resources
When you ask for something, always provide a context (why does it matter) and the deadline (when it must be finished) and any additional resources that are needed to get the job done.
By targeting an exact message, you reduce the chance of any misunderstandings.
Have A Virtual Communication Policy
This is a really easy way to improve communication in a workplace, have a policy regarding the best ways to communicate, what tools to use, etc.
Then look at each tool in turn and provide some guidelines on how to use them.
For example, Slack might be “any style, informality is fine” whereas Basecampe might be, “use tasks and to-dos, talk through anything for clarification, and then use meetings for anything complex.”
Be Mindful Of Body Language
Yes, working from home is awesome and it can be easy to be as casual on a video call as you are for the rest of the day.
But what message do you think it sends other people when you’re looking at the ceiling and you’re slouched back in your chair?
Sit up straight, try to effect eye contact, show you’re paying attention, it will make life easier for everyone.
Review Your Communication Regularly And Seek Feedback
If you want to be a better communicator, you should regularly ask yourself, “OK, in that situation, what went well and what didn’t go so well? What can I do next time to do better?”
And occasionally? Go and ask other people for their feedback on how you communicate with them and what you can do better too.
This will rapidly help you evolve a communication style that works for everyone you deal with.
Communicate Your Preferred Forms Of Communication
Some forms of communication will work better for you than others. For example, Slack might be fine for a casual chat, but you might prefer formal correspondence by email and meetings over MS Teams.
This is fine. Just tell people so that they can help with that, don’t expect them to read your mind on this.
Final Thoughts On Effective Remote Communication
We identified communication as the biggest issue that remote workers face and these tips can help you to get your communication on point.
You may also find these tips for succeeding at remote work and these tips for managing remote teams helpful in improving your personal communication strategy.