When you’re working remotely with colleagues, people you’re managing, or clients, it’s important to takes proactive steps to avoid communication issues before they happen. There’s a few things you can do regularly to help have a healthy relationship while you’re virtual:
- Check in regularly
Schedule regular calls, video chats or meetings with people. These can be with a full team, and/or 1:1. A side benefit of scheduling is communicating that “my relationship with you is important enough to me to check in regularly.”
- Be accessible
Make sure people know how to get in touch with you. If you work in different time zones, make sure people know the best way to get in touch with you if something is urgent. There’s nothing worse than having to wait an entire day because you couldn’t get a question answered.
- It’s not just about the work
We’re all people at the end of the day. Ask the person about their personal life. What are they doing for the weekend? If there’s a special festival or holiday in their country, how do they celebrate it? You can learn so much more about a person by exploring other dimensions beyond your work.
A2: I have, from halfway around the world. I schedule regular check-ins just to talk informally, also email a lot #wfhchat
— Scott Dawson (@scottpdawson) October 4, 2017
Handling Communication Issues
If and when misunderstandings arise — and they will — hopping on voice or video can work wonders. Know when to take things out of a medium where communication is no longer effective. Phone calls or video chat can help clear up misunderstandings far faster than asynchronous communication.
A4: I try to prevent breakdowns by opting to talk on voice or video if I start to feel like a chat thread isn't going anywhere because we're misunderstanding each other #remotechat
— Garrett McCullough (@gwmccull) April 18, 2018
Question to the Void
You can head off potential communication issues by trying to be proactive and identify them before they arise. Try to be as unambiguous in your communication as possible. If something can be interpreted more than one way, it’s likely that it will be. Read and re-read things when you write them, and make them as clear and concise as possible. If you’re writing to someone for whom English is not a primary language, use words that are clear and commonly used, too. Nobody should need to use a dictionary to find out what you really mean. Lastly, there’s a saying “question to the void.” If you read something and you’re inner voice is saying, “Yeah … I still don’t fully understand …” you should get clarification. Ask questions until you can’t ask questions anymore. Only then will you have gotten to the point where things are clearly communicated and understood.
YES! I talk about this often with other freelancers. If a client sends something vague or confusing, my first line of defense is to rephrase their question back to them. They either correct the assumptions or realize they haven't provided enough details & fill in the holes.
— Eff The Office (@EffTheOffice) April 18, 2018