How to feel less remote? – Effective communication when working remotely

Effective communication when working remotely

Remote working, working from home, e-working or teleworking, whichever term you use, it’s one of the hot topics of discussion resulting from this global COVID-19 pandemic.

Luckily, I’ve been working remotely for many years. No balancing a laptop at the end of the kitchen table for me!  Having joined Ammeon in 2016 as a remote technical writer, I already had a dedicated workspace set up in my spare room.

However, I’m sure that there are some people who are not happy to suddenly find themselves working from home. But remember that this situation is not normal remote working. It’s combined with lockdown precautions, social distancing and possibly caring for family members.

While I can’t help out with your work environment, I can share some of my thoughts and experiences about working remotely. A key factor in working remotely is good and effective communication.

Nowadays, there are many collaborative tools, such as Slack and Zoom, that make communication much easier. But of course, tools are only as effective as how they are used.

Communicating with co-workers

Keep information in public forums as much as possible.

When working remotely, a large percentage of communication can take place privately, such as emails, direct messages, and direct calls. This can lead to repeated conversations and also it can unintentionally exclude people from joining a discussion. 

Encourage all team members to participate in online discussions.

It’s tempting for newer members to wait for more experienced members to respond. However, this can lead to the same one or two having to answer all of the questions instead of sharing the load.

Provide constructive feedback.

When responding to questions or providing feedback, keep it positive. Sometimes it’s hard to gain context when you can’t see somebody face-to-face. It’s probably best to avoid irony and sarcasm unless you’re confident that it will be interpreted correctly.

Remember to include some social chit-chat.

Don’t always dive straight into the work topic. Treat an online conversation like a real conversation.

Seeking information

As a technical writer, I’m usually looking for information or content from people. Generally, I use a team Slack channel to ask questions and it means that whoever is available can help me out rather than targeting an individual who might be busy or may not have the answers. It also gives everyone the opportunity to join in the discussion and possibly learn from the answers.

Keep the following in mind when asking questions:

Has this question been answered before?

Search your emails, slack history and any other online forums before posing your question.

Is this information for me only or could it be of benefit to other co-workers too?

Determine whether you need a direct message or can you post the information in a Slack channel or an online forum.

Can Google answer my question?

Do a quick online search before asking your question. Nobody wants to answer a question that could easily be answered online.

Be patient.

When you ask a question, do not expect someone to reply immediately. If it’s urgent, call someone.

Avoiding miscommunication

When most of your communication is online, it can be easy to misinterpret the tone of messages.

Proofread your messages.

Take a couple of minutes to review what you’ve written. If the message is full of typos, the recipient might think that you just rushed out the message without any thought or worse, they might interpret it as a message typed out angrily.

Examine the tone of your message.

Aim for a tone that suits the recipient of your message. Keep it friendly. Try to avoid passive-aggressive language such as, “As I said in my previous email”.

Don’t reply immediately

If you receive an email or message that annoys or upsets you, don’t reply in anger. Take some time to calm down and ideally talk to the sender rather than engaging in an online battle.

As I mentioned earlier, this is not normal remote working. Be patient and kind to yourself and to your co-workers  

Blathnaid Wall
Technical Writer| Ammeon

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