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Communication is key

Author and personal development expert Paul J. Meyer says, “Communication – human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” This is so true. Communication is extremely important in the workplace, and especially vital when working on a remote team. While technology can be beneficial, it can also create barriers to the human connection that require some effort to overcome. TeamworkPuzzel400

Let’s start by imagining a personal communication scenario: You have been texting with a close friend. You know each other so well that you can actually picture them responding in your head. While you only see their words in the text response, your mind hears their words and visualizes their reaction. This ability develops over time as we consistently interact with people in person. We gain critical context when we are face-to-face seeing how someone communicates with us. We see their body language, facial expressions and mannerisms. We hear their tone of voice or sense of humor. We likely have some frame of conversation based on the surroundings or from small talk that occurred prior to the communication. Thinking back to the friend who you could imagine responding to your text, you can understand their words in a text without any context because you know that person – how they speak and how they interact. They are human. When we’ve had in-person interactions with someone, we can often have a completely different experience than if we have only been reading what they are saying in words.

Now put this into the perspective of a remote work environment where you’ve never met a team member in person. Communication becomes more challenging. You must imagine the human on the other end of the screen. You don’t know them. You can’t hear their tone of voice or sense of humor. You can’t see their facial expressions or body language. You can’t tell if they are smiling, frowning, have a serious face or may be holding back a grin. You simply read their words. Things can be easily misinterpreted without any of the critical context. This is why it is so important to have clear and open communication among your team. Be respectful. Be thoughtful. Be kind. Provide some context. Add an emoji, add some punctuation or add a GIF. Be mindful that not everyone thinks the same way you do. You may type something with the best of intentions, and it still may be interpreted the wrong way.

With that in mind, here are some helpful tips on how to successfully communicate in a remote workplace:

  • Use your communication tools! We have Microsoft Teams to communicate with our coworkers. We can call, video chat, instant message and have various project-specific communications right inside this useful tool. Emojis, animations and punctuation are helpful ways to get your tone across in a message – use them. ? Suggest a meeting or a call to discuss complex topics that could be misinterpreted over text.
  • Close the loop in communication whenever possible. If someone reaches out, respond to them that you’ve gotten the message, whether it’s an instant message, email or a post on a team channel. This can be as easy as reacting to a post on a team channel or in an instant message thread. If someone asks a question that you don’t have an immediate answer to, let them know you’ve received their communication, and you will follow up within a certain time frame. This closes the loop of communication by telling the sender you have received the communication, you are processing the information, and you intend to respond. If no response is received in the specified time frame, then the sender knows they are free to reach back out. Direct and clear communication helps relieve any feelings of uneasiness on either end of the interaction.
  • Practice active listening. When attending meetings – pay attention. This sounds simple enough, but it is very easy to get distracted or multitask when attending a meeting virtually. Could you imagine being on your phone or not paying attention if you were attending that same meeting in person? How upset would you be if someone was on their phone or not paying attention while you were leading a meeting? It’s not a good feeling, especially if you are communicating important information and the people who are not paying attention miss those details and are later clueless. Show active listening by asking clarifying questions and responding when a question is asked, either verbally or virtually by “reacting” in the meeting.
  • Be respectful of each other’s time. Be considerate and keep meetings brief and on topic. Don’t be afraid to speak up if a meeting is being derailed; you can say something like “that feels out of scope for this meeting, let’s chat more about that offline.” Feel free to keep everyone on time and on topic by mentioning the time remaining. For example, “we have 20 minutes remaining, let’s move on to the next agenda item,” or “to remain mindful of everyone’s time, I’d like to point out that we have 10 minutes remaining,” or “let’s wrap up in the remaining 5 minutes.” Saying phrases like this helps to gently remind everyone to stay focused and on time. Consider scheduling 20-minute or 50-minute meetings when appropriate, to allow people a break between consecutive meetings for the restroom, stretching or accomplishing a small task. Not every meeting needs to be 30 minutes or 60 minutes!
  • Recognize your team! Remember that kindness goes a long way and even the simplest of compliments or recognition can make a difference. If you like someone’s shirt or hairstyle – tell them. If someone did an excellent job on a task or a project – tell them. If you know it’s someone’s birthday – wish them “Happy Birthday!” If someone is having a bad day or having a rough time – tell them you’re thinking of them or send them an e-card. These little interactions can make a big difference in making someone’s day and making coworkers feel connected and supported.
  • Remember, we are humans, not robots. Take a brief moment to connect with your coworkers. Be personable at the beginning of a call. Say “Hi, how are you?” Start your meeting off with a joke or quote, if appropriate. Start instant messages with a greeting or salutation before getting right into your work-related communication. Remember that you are talking to a person on the other end of the screen. It is easy to be task-focused all the time, but it’s important to take a moment to build a connection with your team members because this builds trust and respect.

These are some simple, yet effective, ways to improve communication while working on a remote team. Utilizing these communication tips can help develop a human connection among virtual team members, which will ultimately result in a successful team.

 

 

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  • Last modified on Tuesday, 11 June 2024 14:07