There are dozens of common challenges that working from home can create for remote workers but what’s the biggest challenge of them all?
There’s no doubt in our mind about this: communication.
When you go from an environment where you see and speak to your teammates every day to one where your communication becomes, out of necessity, more formal and more digital?
That’s when trouble starts. So, here’s what to do about it.
The Most Challenging Aspect Of Working From Home Is Communication (Here’s How To Solve The Problem)
This issue with communication can be really stressful if you don’t know what to do and it can even lead to burnout (we’ve got a good resource on preventing burnout while working from home).
But, all it really takes to solve communication issues is for you to take charge of the problem and realize that you need to do more to communicate effectively in this environment.
The first thing you have to do is learn to be proactive.
You won’t get whispers at the watercooler or run into colleagues in corridors – you have to communicate with others regularly, before it becomes urgent and you have to do it fairly.
Even little things like checking in with each team member in the morning to see how they are can make a huge difference in the way that you are perceived and the whole team dynamic.
Try To Find Out People’s Communication Preferences
Some people want to hear from you via Slack, others via email and still others need a Zoom call to feel comfortable.
The sooner you work out who likes which communication channels and the sooner you adopt those channels, the easier it will be to talk to other people in your team.
Recognize That The Medium Often Reflects The Message
It’s also important to realize that people’s preferences are one thing but different mediums suit different forms of communication.
If you just need to ask a quick question – Slack is awesome and less annoying than a formal e-mail or intrusive Zoom call.
But if you’ve got a ton of data that needs sharing, email will be better, and if you need to hold long conversations? It’s time for that Zoom call.
Pay Attention When Others Are Talking
Look, we know it’s easy to get distracted in big meetings online sometimes because of external noise (see our guide to soundproofing your home to handle this) and sometimes because your thoughts wander.
However, you can’t be an effective part of a remote team if you don’t pay attention when others are talking.
It might be a bit tedious at times but you need to be present and it can help the person speaking if you offer positive feedback to prove that you are paying attention.
Learn To Write Concisely And In The Right Tone
Nobody’s asking you to become a journalist but when you communicate in writing – learning to keep things to the point and keep them brief is vital.
You also want to ensure that you use the appropriate tone, you would be amazed at the number of remote work misunderstandings that come about because somebody reads a happy email as an angry one (or vice-versa).
Remember The Three C’s Of Communication
These are Clarity, Consistency and Conciseness.
A clear communication sticks to the basics and doesn’t wander off track.
A consistent communicator uses the same channels for similar messages with a given individual.
And a concise communicator keeps it as short as possible.
It can help to think about:
- The context of your message – what purpose does it serve?
- What are you asking for or recommending? Use that as a headline if you can.
- Supporting data – can you offer links or documents to help the other person make a decision?
Make Time For Casual Conversations
In the real world much of our office communication is chit-chat (or even, hushed whispers, gossip).
The virtual world needs this too. You have to ask your colleagues how they’re doing, work out what’s important to them, and be genuinely interested.
This creates rapport in the team.
Always Assume The Best Of Others
This is critical. We noted that sometimes wires get crossed in the course of written communication.
You can help prevent this by assuming that each communication you recieve is sent with the best of intentions.
If you have doubts talk privately to the sender and ask for clarification but don’t charge in with both feet forward and go on the attack.
Meetup Offline If Possible
For global teams this might not be easy and for those involved in hybrid work, it might be super easy.
But it can be very valuable to communication as a whole if you all get together every now and again and talk in real life.
There really is no substitute for face-to-face time.
Final Thoughts On The Challenges Of Working From Home
With nearly 5 million people now working remotely in the United States, it’s fair to say that many of us are going to have to work on our communication skills.
The good news is that while communicating is the biggest challenge of working from home, it’s not an insurmountable one.
The sooner you take responsibility for being a better communicator, the easier you will find your remote work life.