5 Remote Communication Methods That Set You Up For Success

The challenge of empathy is rarely conveyed through remote communications. People use body language, intonation, and facial expressions to convey empathy, but all these may disappear when working remotely. 

Working effectively
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5
 Min read
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December 21, 2020

5 Remote Communication Methods That Set You Up For Success

Everyone knows communication is the heartbeat of a team. Effective communication can boost team morale, get things done fast, and foster working relationships. Especially in-person face-to-face interactions. Nothing beats that. 

Until working from home becomes a norm. And people may find “remote communication” elusive most of the time. 

They don’t know what their team members are doing. Their messages don’t get replied immediately. Sometimes they get a simple “OK” while expecting a detailed answer. These can accumulate and often lead to frustration and resentment within the team.

Another challenge of remote communication is the inability to communicate non-verbally. The absence of body language and intonation may leave someone feeling offended when it’s supposed to be a joke. 

With that said, remote working is here to stay. It’s going to be the new norm soon and people need to learn new remote communication methods that are as effective—if not better—than physical interactions.

The following tips could help you adapt to the new norm and communicate effectively with your remote team. So your teammates do not have to spend time analyzing your messages over and over again.

5 Tips To Communicate Effectively While Working From Home

#1. Be Clear And Concise

Assume giving directions to a 5-year-old kid over a phone. You need to highlight each landmark clearly in simple terms to guide him. The same holds when communicating with your coworkers. 

Words like “it, that, they, those, this, these, he, she” are confusing, especially within a long text. People will be wondering what you are referring to. 

Make it a habit to name things as much as possible. Instead of saying “that”, say “that sewing task I just gave you”. Instead of saying, “she”, say their names. It may sound repetitive and weird, but trust me, they can clear a lot of confusion

But this doesn’t mean the message should be long. It should be concise as well. Short and packed with relevant information to the recipient. Here’s an example:

Bad communication, A: Please update that by today.

Effective communication, B: Please update the “Diamond Project” status by 3 pm today. I want to know what has been done, the challenges, and your suggestions to resolve them. 

If you are the recipient, which communication would you prefer? I suppose it is B. 

The idea is to give your coworkers enough details so they know what they are supposed to do, when they should deliver, and what you are expecting. This leaves no room for miscommunication.

#2 Over Communicate Is Better Than Under Communicate

Assuming your coworker knows what you are saying is a formula for disaster. The same goes for the other way round.

With the lack of body language, facial expression, and intonation, people need to go the extra mile and over communicate their messages. Because virtual communication often lacks empathy, connection, and emotions. 

Use emojis to show your facial expression. If you are cheering up a coworker, use the biceps or fireworks emoji. If you are apologizing, use emojis to show your sincerity.

Add in empathetic words like, “I understand where you’re coming from.” If your coworker is expressing slight frustration, it helps to start your message with, “I can feel that you are frustrated.” 

Virtual communication does not have to sound stiff. It can be warm and fun, with the right use of emojis and empathetic words.

#3. Set Remote Communication Policy

With a common communication policy in place, everyone knows what tools to use, when is the next team meeting, how to behave in virtual meetings, when is the best time to message and the do’s and don'ts when communicating. This puts everyone on the same page, thus reducing even more miscommunications.

When setting up a remote communication policy, these are the things to look out for:

  • What communication tools to use? Do consider channels for messages, collaboration, video conferencing, file sharing, and social network. 
  • When is the best time to follow-up? We explained this in detail in the Work From Home Best Practices For Success article. In short, send follow-ups within your coworker’s comfort level.
  • What are the best practices for video conferencing? What are the do’s and don'ts? What if someone breached the don’ts?

If you are a freelancer dealing with clients directly, you can set a communication policy for yourself. 

Set aside a time to communicate with clients and make sure the client knows this. Choose one channel to communicate with each client. Decide for yourself what are the do’s and don’ts when doing a video call. 

#4. Use Video Calls Regularly 

Have you ever felt misunderstood over a chat and get it all resolved in a video call or physical interaction?

Non-verbal behaviors such as body language and facial expressions can speak volumes to those who know what to look for. They can provide additional insights about the person’s mental and emotional state—which cannot be conveyed through texts.

When learning how to communicate effectively while working from home, always opt for video calls if possible. Just by looking at the person’s face, it gives a lot more information than just texts. This information can help you understand their intentions, emotions, meaning under the lines, or even understand their jokes. 

If you find yourself repeating something, chances are, your coworker doesn’t get it and needs a different channel: video call. 

In fact, the video call is the only remote communication method that closely resembles physical interaction. The only thing is, you cannot see the entire body and touch the person. But that’s okay. You still get to see the other person.

#5. Communicate With Your Housemates

Ever seen the video of a BBC newscaster where his children barged into his room while he is doing a live interview?

Obviously, his children didn’t know their daddy is working from home. They thought, “if daddy is at home, I can play with him!”

If you have children, spouse, roommates, or any other people living in the same house with you, they need to know that you are working even though you are at home.

This means, no knocking on the door except it’s an emergency, no shouting around, no playing toys nearby, etc. 

Even better, use a “Do Not Disturb” sign and hang it on the door. Show it when you are unavailable. Remove it and people will know they can talk to you.

If you do not have a “Do Not Disturb” sign, use the door as the signal. If it’s a closed door, that means “Busy”. If it’s an open door, that means “Available.”

Be sure to communicate with your co-inhabitants about these signs and ask for their cooperation. 

In conclusion, the heartbeat of effective remote communication is empathy—the ability to understand another person’s feelings.

The challenge of empathy is rarely conveyed through remote communications. People use body language, intonation, and facial expressions to convey empathy, but all these may disappear when working remotely. 

Remote workers can create more empathy by being clear and concise, over communicating, setting a common communication policy, opting for video calls, and informing fellow housemates. 

To find out how to be a better remote worker, check out our 6 Uncommon Ways To Be A Good Remote Worker.



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