Remote work has come to stay.
According to a recent survey by Upwork, it’s estimated that about 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely by 2025.
This shows that more companies are embracing the remote culture and ditching the physical office structure.
Recently, Drift announced that it’s become a digital-first company. This means that employees at the company will mostly work from home individually. They would only go to a nearby office when there’s an absolute necessity for it.
While there are a lot of benefits of remote work, one of its downsides is that what you say could be misinterpreted by a colleague or boss. Since no one is physically available to understand the intent behind what you say, they might think otherwise.
If not well managed, this could lead to rancour in the company, and might eventually force some employees not to put in their best.
In this post, I’ll share with you five ways you can avoid a communication gap in your company while working remotely. That way, everyone in the company will be on the same page. Not only that, but they’ll also be enthusiastic about the work they do.
When communicating with other members of your team in a remote work setting, you should avoid formal language as much as possible.
The reason is simple.
Working remotely is quite different from working in a physical office. Most of your employees are likely working from different locations in the world across different time zones. Also, they might be facing a challenge or distraction at home, or wherever they’re working from, that you don’t know about.
If you use formal words or jargon, it might sound too serious. And they might misinterpret it to mean something else.
The best way to go about communicating with your remote team is to use informal words. If possible, you can use GIFs, memes, emojis, and slang to pass your message across better.
Doing this will lead to a friendly remote work environment. Also, it’ll make your employees more productive and they’ll always be eager to do their work efficiently.
In a remote work setting, nobody can see your facial reaction to issues. That said, your tone of communication when writing can say a lot about what’s going on in your mind.
Take, for instance, if you send an email to a co-worker with an all-caps subject line—that might come off as rude or disrespectful.
Similarly, if you send a message to them on Slack with bold and italicized words, that might be misinterpreted as well.
This is why you should be mindful of your communication tone with co-workers when working remotely. While you might not mean any harm by communicating this way, it might put off the other person.
The best way to go about it is to use a communication tone that’s friendly and builds the confidence of your team members. For example, instead of saying “Why haven’t you completed this task?” you could say, “Looks like you haven’t completed this task. Is everything all right?” or something along these lines.
While the former sounds confrontational, the latter shows that you care and are concerned about them.
For most remote teams, the common way of communication is writing. To avoid ambiguity and ensure that the other person understands your message, write in a clear and precise manner.
Writing clearly means using simple expressions that could be easily comprehended. If possible, write the way you speak. Also, avoid using ambiguous words as much as possible.
On the other hand, writing precisely means that you should avoid vague words when you communicate with others. That way, the core of your message will be immediately understood by the other person as soon as they read it.
With these tools, common grammatical errors can be corrected while you write before sending them to your colleagues.
Sometimes a person on your remote team may need further explanation from you. In this case, a longer explanation might be more appropriate. That way, you’ll be able to answer the colleague’s question thoroughly without offending them.
Of course, although using precise and short answers is desired in a remote setting, this shouldn’t be the case when someone asks you a question. If you do, it might mean that you aren’t interested in helping them, or could be interpreted as being rude.
For example, if you run a social media marketing agency and one of your team members makes a mistake while scheduling posts for your clients.
In a situation like this, they require thorough feedback from you, where you show them exactly what they did wrong and how to avoid that in the future.
That way you’re being helpful and helping them to improve.
Writing alone cannot solve all your communication issues as a remote team. In some cases, you need to take it a step further if you really want everyone to be on the same page.
Using the example cited above, it’s possible to show a team member how to schedule social media posts through written content. That might not be comprehensive enough compared to sending them screenshots from the scheduling tool you use or even sharing your screen with them.
This is why using explainer images and videos is an effective way to avoid a communication gap in your remote team.
Luke Fitzpatrick has been published in Forbes, Yahoo! News and Influencive. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of Sydney, lecturing in Cross-Cultural Management and the Pre-MBA Program. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.