6 Tips for communicating effectively while working remotely
April 28, 2020
While many of us have enjoyed the occasional work from home (WFH) days or even regularly scheduled ones, the bulk of us were not prepared for the complete shift to working from home. There are, of course, clear benefits such as a significantly reduced commute time, other than a detour through the kitchen, and for many of us suits and ties usually donned for the office, have hung, untouched, in our closets for weeks, and then there is the benefit of spending more time with our families and our pets, but there are also potential impediments. This required distancing that has forced to work from our homes can have a huge impact on our ability to communicate. Our typical communication channels involved email, phone calls, face-to-face meetings (both chance and planned), but while in the office, we also had the opportunity to swing by someone’s desk or office when something was not coming together, instructions or expectations were confusing, or something just seemed off. In order to be successful and effective while we WFH, we have to ensure our communication lines do break down.
Based on your team dynamics, you will likely need to establish specific guidelines for communication with your team. However, these six tips will provide a framework to help you and your team communicate effectively while we WFH.
Set up weekly check in meetings with your team
This will help you to get a pulse on their well-being, productivity, etc. Talk with your team about communication, and praise those who are communicating well with one another.
Meet via video conferencing with each of your direct reports
This is important because you want to gauge how each one is functioning in this environment, how they are doing emotionally, their productivity, and whether or not they are feeling overwhelmed, etc.
Set communication expectations
This is especially important because we need to be able to reach people on our team when something urgent arises. So, set expectations for how team members will communicate in such situations. This might be via text on one’s cell phone, or in our case, we are all on Teams and can reach out via a Teams chat or Teams phone call. Teams also has a great feature to let you know when someone is busy or available.
Deal with a breakdown in communication as soon as possible
You do not want to let any miscommunication fester or grow out of control.
Encourage team members to call colleagues
When we solely rely on email, there can be a lag in response time, or multiple back and forth responses. In a phone call, team members often resolve a question much quicker – thereby saving time and energy, and of often they end up conversing about more than the initial reason, thereby checking off other things on the to-do list.
Ensure you are available for your team
You can’t set these expectations if you are not going to make yourself available. It is a two-way street and your team will definitely need you as well.
Communication is one of the single most important elements to ensure workplace productivity, happiness, engagement, and creativity. When communication breaks down, the ultimate result is a loss on return on investment. Millions of dollars are lost every year due to communication problems. Communication can be difficult under the best of circumstances, and now that most of us are working remotely, it is even more critical to ensure our lines of communication are in place.
Stay safe and healthy.
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies