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How to Maintain Effective Communication when Working Remotely

Helena Sampayo
Helena Sampayo|

As many of us adjust to life working remotely for the foreseeable future, practising effective communication is the talk of the town. And we’re not surprised—effective communication is essential in keeping your company and everyone in it, a well-oiled machine.

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But while we think of ways to adapt to and bridge the virtual gap, we’re bound to face challenges. After all, we’re amidst a global pandemic—and being confronted by the unknown calls for a more complex style of communication when working remotely.

So, what does it mean to practice effective communication with our teams and how can we maintain it during a global crisis?

For more tips, tricks and invaluable insights into remote working, head to the HubbleHQ Remote Work Hub; the definitive source for all things remote work-related. 

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For us at HubbleHQ, it’s all about saying things at the right time, in the right place—contextualising the information you send out and framing it in a way that’s appropriate to the circumstances.

Communicate with the right tools

In this day and age, there’s an abundance of practical tools out there that make conversing with colleagues incredibly easyand Slack is a prime example.

With instant messaging software like Slack, the fleeting nature of conversation is eradicated. Where you may forget small details of a face-to-face exchange, Slack stores every message in one place so that it’s instantly searchable and available, whenever you please.

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These tips could be helpful to ensure that you’re using a communicative platform like Slack well:

  • Become acquainted with the notifications button. Snoozing your notifications is a great way to limit noise levels and distractions, allowing you to focus on deep work.
  • Create separate channels for non-work-related messages. We’d definitely recommend sending memes, jokes or cute cat photos to designated channels. Not only will this inject a little lighthearted fun into your internal comms, but it won’t deflect the rest of the teams’ workflow.
  • You can also mute specific channels. If you find that you won’t be able to resist watching that one cat video when working to a deadline, it’s probably best you use this feature.

It’s worth noting that while we work remotely, face-to-face communication is key. Body language, tone of voice and actively listening are what makes us effective communicators and in times like these, it’s always nice to see a familiar face. Zoom and Skype are excellent tools for this, especially as you’re able to record meetings so that important information always stays documented and retrievable.

And with these tools, we find it helpful to always ask ourselves whether our chosen method of communication, be it a video call or Slack message, is the most productive. To help you clarify, this article was incredibly useful at pointing out how to choose the appropriate medium.

Think carefully about what you say, and how you say it

Emotional intelligence is a fundamental part of communicating effectively. Especially in a time like this, stress levels can be high, anxiety brews and people may find themselves distracted.

So, we advise creating opportunities for your team to express how their feeling, from a personal and work perspective. While these moments may have occurred organically at the office’s coffee machine or your desk, it’s now time to engineer them to maintain effective communication.

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To do this, we’ve found these three steps to be beneficial:

  • Establish a daily check-in routine.
  • Always remember to ask each other how they’re doing.
  • Ensure you frame your language in a way that’s sensitive to current issues.

But it’s no surprise that communication, especially when it’s written, can become a hotbed for misinterpretations. When stress levels are high, it’s easy for someone to make assumptions or take the message out of contextand this is where over-communication can be a good thing.

It’s advised to put everything into context. If you think you’ve explained something clearly, do a final check over and clarify again. This will help to create a space where your team will be able to openly communicate with one another, resolve confusion and yield better results.

Use your team culture to aid communication

How your team communicates with one another is heavily influenced by the company culture, so it’s crucial to bring it to life in everyone’s remote offices.

  • If you haven’t already, now’s the perfect time to create a company handbook. This is where all the company’s values, policies and protocols can be documented and understood by your team.
  • Ensure that you make no room for grey areas. Clearly define your expectations, values and goals so that nothing goes amiss.

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But at the same time, a meaningful culture can’t just be words on a page. We find that enacting your company values through communication is a fantastic way to bring workplace culture to life. For example, if ‘transparency’ is a prominent pillar of your company culture, then ensuring that you’re being open and honest with your team about important company updates is key.

But all in all, recognise that it’s a process. This transition isn’t going to be perfect, so embrace what works and what doesn’t, and communicate this to your team.

Keep up social communication, too!

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In becoming full-time remote workers while the country is in lockdown, feelings of loneliness and isolation are bound to creep upon us. That’s why it’s more important than ever to ensure that we’re staying sociable with our teams. Not only will it lift moods, but it will maintain bonds amongst team members and in turn, will improve internal communication.

So, whether it’s virtual team quiz nights or group yoga sessions, we’ve thought of a variety of innovative and fun ways to stay sociable with our team, and you can find them here.

Synchronous vs asynchronous communication

As studies show that remote workers tend to be more productive than their in-office colleagues, taking a moment to reflect on your team’s communication style can go a long way.

It’s considered that teams engage with two types of communication; asynchronous and synchronous. When used correctly, your team will interact productively when working remotely but if used in the wrong context, things can go swiftly south.

To put it simply, asynchronous communication doesn’t happen in real-time. It’s receiving information in an email and responding to it several hours later, whereas synchronous communication is immediate. You and your partner are literally conversing in sync, delivering and receiving information in the very moment.

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While synchronous communication is effective for:

  • Working on collaborative projects, like group ideation sessions or meetings.
  • Answering questions to provide swift solutions.
  • Arranging video calls or phone calls.

Many remote companies are adamant that asynchronous communication is the way forward and for good reason. By choosing when to respond in accordance with your schedule, your team members will feel more productive. Distractions are diminished, your focus is enhanced and deep work becomes the default.

But most notably, async boosts the quality of internal communication. We’ve found that it’s enabled us to have time to think through solutions and give responses to a high-standard, as opposed to giving rushed answers that may be undercooked. It also promotes better planning, by reducing the chances of vital information being missed out or glossed over.

In a time like this, diligent and careful considerations are exactly what we need to ensure we’re connecting with our teams productively. From all of us at HubbleHQ, we hope these tips and tricks can help you maintain effective communication when working from home.

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