Remote work and the cornucopia of different technologies used to facilitate it mean that how we communicate with our coworkers has changed drastically. Balancing different platforms like video conferences, email, text chat, and social media platforms like LinkedIn can be a challenge, and your communication skills need to evolve with new and emerging technology.
Even if you aren’t seeing your coworkers on a daily basis, and even if your networking and sales conversations take place over a screen, you can still be personable and charismatic. Evolve your remote communication skills by embracing these five philosophies.
Know how the tech works
There are a lot of tools used to facilitate online communication, and they all serve different purposes. Knowing how and when to use these tools is the foundation for remote dialogue.
The specific platform you’ll use for different forms of communication will vary between companies. For video conferencing, you might use Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Discord, or Meetings, and each program has different intricacies. Once you know what your team uses, do your best to master it. It’s hard to be an effective communicator if you aren’t using the tech properly.
Once you’ve mastered the tech, learn the best uses for each form. Different tools have different purposes, and you’ll want to use the right tool for the job, writes Jacky Xu. Have a simple question you need answered quickly? You’ll have to decide whether to use a text, an email, or a messaging program like Slack.
“For example, an instant messaging platform (like Slack) is best for short messages that need a fairly immediate response. Email is usually better for longer messages or something with multiple attachments, and for when you can wait on an answer.” –Greg Kratz
In an in-person conversation, if you felt you weren’t clear with your intent, it’s easy to follow up with a quick explanation or pop back into someone’s office to clarify. You can look into your coworker’s eyes and see potential confusion. That isn’t so in remote communication, and you may not realize your request was ambiguous.
Quality writing is one of the top traits employers seek in remote employees, according to Goncalo Silva of Doist. The ability to eliminate redundancies and fluff and get to the heart of a matter is the key to making your writing clear. The easier it is for the recipient of your message to understand what you need, the more effectively they can assist.
Hannah Morgan reiterates to keep your messages brief, especially when communicating with someone new. People tend to skim long bodies of text (something we blog writers must constantly be aware of!), so the more you meander, the less likely you’ll get a response.
“Get straight to the point, and don’t dance around the reason for your contact. It’s best to be direct.” -Hannah Morgan
It’s difficult to ignore someone talking to you face-to-face, and if you’re in an office, it’s easy for a person to pop in and remind you when they need something. With remote communication, it’s much easier to forget to respond. How many times have you ever mentally responded to a text without actually texting back? Or have you meant to respond to an email and suddenly hours have passed?
It’s not only good etiquette to respond in a timely matter but it’s the expectation to keep the operation running smoothly, says Kelsey Arrington. By promptly following up with your team, you’ll build a greater culture of responsibility and reliability. Open communication is what allows remote communication to flourish.
On the subject of open communication, making yourself available is another important step. Remote work offers more autonomy than working in an office, which is a massive boon, but you can’t cut yourself off entirely. Jacky Xu suggests regularly scheduling check-ins with your team as a way to keep everyone on the same page. This provides an opportunity to share ideas without directly intruding on anyone’s time.
Kelsey Arrington adds to always participate in meetings and to turn your video on during conference calls. This will remind your coworkers you’re still there and actively engaged in work. Your ideas won’t fall on deaf ears and you’ll be viewed as part of the team. Being on video might mean your pajamas will face scrutiny, but you’ll provide the often lost body language communication thrives on.
Mind your body language
Even with video calls, body language is crucial and can shape the nature of your conversations. Watch your body posture, make eye contact with others (not your webcam), avoid looking at your phone, and don’t be afraid to dress up for a meeting as if it were in person. Treating a remote meeting like an in-person one will keep you engaged, and your professionalism will be appreciated.
“Posture not only shapes the way we feel, it also shapes the way we think about ourselves–from our self-descriptions to the certain and comfort with which we hold them. And those self-concepts can either facilitate or hinder our ability to connect with others, to perform our jobs, and, more simply, to be present.” –Carol Kinsey Goman
Remote work models are the norm, and even a significant percentage of networking occurs online. Knowing how to adapt your communication skills to the current landscape is a must for career success. Know how to use every tool at your disposal, and know when to use them. Be clear, prompt, and available, and you’ll gain a reputation as a reliable team member. Go the extra mile and be a professional in video chats, and you’ll feel a stronger sense of connection with your team.