Working from home has become a popular trend. And some of us enjoy the flexibility and find it much easier to get our tasks done at home. Just think: No hour-long commutes, no complicated wardrobe, and yes, the pajamas. But, some others struggle to avoid any distractions and maintain their productivity. Well, whether you are a fan of working from home or not, there’s one of the biggest challenges you always face when trying to accomplish your individual or group goals: ineffective communication.
When working from home, communication can be a significant source of frustration – especially for many first-time remote workers. That makes sense, though. When we are not in the exact location, it takes an extra effort to make sure our team is on the same page, and we are still engaged with each other. This article will dive into some actionable and handy ways to keep the communication going smoothly when working from home.
Why communication is crucial when working from home?
Working from home means no coffee break talks and water-cooler moments. Also, without face-to-face contact, it can be pretty hard to stay in touch and catch up with each other. So, it should come as no surprise that collaboration and communication is the major challenge for employees when it comes to working from home. Communication is a critical skill in any environment. It is always best to stay connected and build trust with coworkers.
And with that strong connection and trust-building, you can get your work done more efficiently and maximize team productivity. That’s not all. Effective communication when working from home can actually do so much more than helping you and your team get projects done seamlessly. It also makes you feel like you are an integral part of your team, helping you strengthen your sense of belonging so that you feel less lonely and stay engaged.
For anyone who works within an organization, you must know that one of the most satisfying and rewarding aspects of your job is knowing you’re an integral part of the business, knowing you’re cherished, valued, respected, and loved. When employees feel valued and get their tasks without any hurdles, they can quickly improve their productivity and create a high-performing team – which is key to growing a successful business. The million-dollar question is: how to create and maintain effective communication when you are miles apart from your colleagues?
How is remote communication different from in-person communication?
Communication in the work from home (WFH) environment aims to connect employees that operate from various locations. More often than not, it relies on technology to bridge the distance. That said, remote communication still makes conversations between employees less personal and anticipatory. In addition, there are no verbal signs and body language that can make it difficult for you to gauge your colleague’s responses or reactions.
This makes talking to your colleagues in person so much easier compared to this. Since there are more limits for you to get your messages across through remote communication, vital information is often not relayed accurately. It makes discussions sometimes can quickly escalate into misinterpretations and misunderstandings. This is probably the reason why remote communication is considered the biggest challenge for most employees when it comes to working from home.
Therefore, it is so much more than the technology we use. Remote communication also requires everyone on the team to be precise, patient, professional, careful, and empathetic to accurately get the message across. In other words, remote communication takes an extra effort into how to best make it work.
Guide to effective communication when working from home
You can say that working from home is a communication exercise for everyone. Every employee needs to communicate to understand all of their work expectations, how to coordinate work to be done, and even how long work from home measures will be in place. Communication might be challenging. But, we have some handy tips to improve your internal communication when working from home.
1. Define goals, expectations, and boundaries
Working from home is full of surprises and uncertainties about what is expected. There is no rigid work schedule, and it is almost impossible for everyone on the team to have the exact, same routine or productive hours. Therefore, it is crucial to define and understand team goals and expectations and set boundaries. Make sure you and your team understand each other’s work schedules and priorities. It is always better to communicate your productive hours, so your team understands when to reach you and expect real-time responses.
In addition, you can use a calendar tool to streamline all the schedules for optimal productivity. In this case, you also need to pay closer attention to different time zones. For example, when you work on a distributed team in an international organization or company, you and your colleagues might work in different time zones. Also, communicating how the team works and what channels the team uses can help improve a team’s WFH experience.
For example, when should a video call be used, and how often should we communicate with each other? When you have new hires, you can provide them with training videos or short explainer videos to help them get solid insights into your company culture, remote team, remote work environment, and more. A solid remote communication policy can reduce stress and miscommunication. Not to mention it also helps your company to cut off overhead expenses from unnecessary technology and infrastructure.
2. Leverage communication tools
Thanks to the internet and the advanced growth of technology. There are tons of communication tools out there to help you connect with your team within a few clicks. In addition, they offer you features that can make communicating much easier and less stressful. But, you need to remember that every communication tool comes with its notifications.
So, it means more communication tools you use, more noises. And with all those noises, it is easy for you to feel overwhelmed and burned out. In other words, too many communication tools can stress you out. So, ease it up. It is essential not to use too many tools for the same purpose. Try to stick to one communication tool whenever possible. Just keep it a minimum.
The managers in the company must learn about their employees’ preferences. For example, maybe some employees prefer instant chat that is more personal, while others prefer the messaging feature within project management software. Thus, the manager can decide what communication tools their employees prefer and like to use the most.
Meanwhile, you can also consider figuring out who likes what, assume good intentions, and then try to communicate in a way that meets their needs. You might also want to consider taking as much time as you need to confirm your clear understanding of everything being said in the message you send. It might seem like a back-breaking job, but this method can ensure you get a fast response and more accurate, conversational dialogues with your colleagues.
3. Remember the crucial three C’s
When it comes to effective communication, you better stick to the Three C’s – Clear, Consistent, and Concise. You can say that accurate and effective remote communication doesn’t start with advanced technology or tools. It begins with the quality of the message itself. Clear communications should be concise and straight to the point.
You need to make sure that the receiver or your colleagues understand its purpose so they can give accurate responses and actions. Simple and straightforward messages can also reduce the time wasted for clarifying and explaining the actual meaning. Here are some of the most crucial points you should pay attention to when you craft your message before sending them out to your colleagues:
- Aim for short, direct sentences.
- Provide a context.
- What do you need and expect from the message you are going to send?
- What, if anything, you’re asking them to do?
- Link to other important information related to the matter.
- Include a recommendation or suggestion (if needed).
- Be especially mindful of the tone of your message.
By all means, it takes an extra effort to hone your message writing skills. However, it’s crucial to be careful not to come off as too aggressive or, on the flip side, too vague with your message.
4. Have regular check-ins
Working from home makes you less able to pick up specific social cues than when working in the office and sharing the same workspace with your colleagues. There is a decline in mutual knowledge, and it is much easier for you to be less likely to give your colleagues the benefit of the doubt.
It is important to set regular check-ins at predictable times each week to constantly build mutual knowledge and catch up with each other. Those regular check-ins also allow you to give feedback or raise concerns and questions that you may have with your jobs or even the management. It is also an effective way to reduce misunderstandings along the way.
5. Say no to hyperconnectivity
This is still related to the previous point above. Your company might attempt to keep you and colleagues continually informed. Meanwhile, in this age of continuous updates and always-on technologies, you and your team try hard not to miss a single piece of information and stay up to date with each other. However, just because you and your team need to stay connected when working remotely from home, it does not mean you have to communicate and talk to them 24/7. This can lead to communication overload.
Too many meaningless virtual meetings and an excessive number of instant messages, endless notifications, and alerts on communication tools can kill your productivity and drain out your energy faster. Communication overload can do more harm than good. You waste time, attention, and energy on unnecessary information and interactions. It keeps you busy, indeed, but produces little value. By all means, you need to give yourself and your colleagues a mental breathing space to help them maintain their attention on more critical tasks.
6. Don’t forget to also engage in casual chit-chat
Don’t use the communication tools only for work-related conversations. Well, of course, work-related talks will always play a crucial role in work performance and will take up the majority of your communication of the day. That said, it is also important to have friendly, casual chit-chat, just like what you usually do in front of the water cooler at the coffee break or lunch break time.
More informal and casual communications are ideal for building a solid connection between you and your colleagues. This, in turn, can help improve team relations over time. After all, when you feel like you and your colleagues get to know each other more and more, it would be much easier and more exciting to work together, right? So, communicating with your colleagues doesn’t always have to be work-related.
For example, you can ask the company to create a platform or tool as a chat channel to have a casual conversation. That being said, you need to remember when you can go casual and when you should take the conversation more professionally. You can also ask your company to host regular fun team-building activities to make sure that all teams stay engaged and connected in a friendly way.
One of the challenges employees encounter when working from home is the lack of face-to-face interaction. Every remote worker can admit that working from home removes any human interaction and emotions from the workplace. As a result, it makes them feel lonely and even sometimes isolated. Not to mention that working from home also changes how they communicate and maintain meaningful relationships with their colleagues.
You and your team have to be more proactive to create conversations to make sure you are on the same page in every project. No matter how many miles you are apart from each other. With the quick guide above, you now should be able to understand what you and your team need to bring to the table to create and maintain effective communication when working from home.
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