One of the biggest challenges we face when working physically apart from each other is communication. Use of tools, routines and agreements are only successful if you communicate effectively and frequently.
Why is frequent communication important?
- Information conveyed by someone’s physical presence, including non-verbal communication between any video conversations, is lost when we work remotely. We know less about what is going on in their lives and how they are feeling.
- Trust diminishes as we spend less time together because we see them doing what they say they will do less often. We used to see it, and now we don’t.
Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you knowJim Rohn
So what is successful frequent communication? There is no one answer. Everyone is different, which means what one person feels is frequent, maybe overbearing or underwhelming for someone else. You need to learn what feels right for you, and the people with whom you work.
Three tips for achieving the right level of communication for you:
- Balance use of informal messaging, email and conversation
- Communicate with purpose
- Connect individually and in groups
1 – Balance use of informal messaging, email and conversation
Communicate most frequently through chat applications like Slack, Workplace or Yammer. Think of quick messaging as replacing the continual flow of information that your in-person presence provided. Consider sharing how your day is going, challenges you are facing, and what is amusing you. Using a tool like Slack or Workplace, you can share with your colleagues informally to build and maintain rapport.
2 – Communicate with purpose
Be clear what you want to achieve with your communication, failure to set intent leaves a message without context. At best, the other party is confused, at worst they are offended. Rather than building trust and rapport, the outcome may be that you create an emotional distance.
Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.Plato*
Your purpose may be social
- Open up to let people know more about you – share your experiences, provide insight into what is going on in your life. Doing so enables them to have empathy and to put a context around interactions they have with you
- Have fun – forward a joke or meme (suitable for work) to brighten someone’s day. It is a great way to let people know a little more about your style and values
- Show appreciation of others – commend or thank someone for even small things to let them know their efforts made a difference. Even an emoji response can show you acknowledge their thoughts
Your purpose may be business
- Advise an outcome – share minutes of a meeting to detail who will do what when, or the result of an action
- Share knowledge – forward an article, advise on an event
- Seek information – ask a question, request a review of a document
3 – Connect individually and in groups
- Get people together to hear the same words at the same time, this a powerful way to align a group. Inclusion or relevant people shows you respect their involvement while building collaborative energy.
- Schedule time with individuals from outside your team which you interact with frequently, don’t rely on just on just written communication or aligning in group discussions.
- Plan regular catch-ups with everyone in your team, for some people this may be a quick daily call, others it might be weekly. Test and learn with them – tell them that you want to get the right rhythm and decide a pattern to try, then assess after a week or so.
To keep a team together, set the example.
- Start an informal chat on whatever tooling you have. Consider it an experiment, and reflect jointly with your team members to keep what works, and lose what doesn’t.
- Think about what you want to achieve in your communication – having fun is allowed, even encouraged! Be yourself while you show consideration.
- Take time to connect both with individuals and with as a group. Use a mix of messaging/chat and live conversation to build an authentic connection.