If you’ve recently made the switch to remote work, you’re not alone. At least a quarter of U.S. employees worked from home at least part of the time before the Covid-19 crisis. An estimated 16 million U.S. knowledge workers started working remotely due to Covid-19 as of March 2020. That number has likely continued to grow.
Unfortunately, the same digital technologies that make it so easy to exchange information can make it more difficult to achieve understanding.
Working from home, we don’t have hallway conversations and office parties that strengthen relationships and build trust. Also absent are the contextual clues that help us interpret meaning: body language, facial expression, and tone of voice.
Without context, misunderstandings are more likely to occur. Without contact, trust can quickly dissolve into suspicion. The result, all too often, is a war of words carried out through electronic messages.
I started Michael Hyatt & Co. as an entirely decentralized team. So we’ve been perfecting remote communication for nearly a decade. Even now, we all work from home at least part of the time. And some work remotely nearly all the time.
Here are some best practices that will boost the contact and context of your remote communication so you can work from home without seeing a drop in productivity or morale.
Communicate More, Not Less
Under-communication is a classic problem with remote teams. When coworkers are out of sight, they can easily slip out of mind.
The solution is to communicate more, not less, when working remotely. You must develop the habit of asking two crucial questions: “What do I know that someone else needs to know,” and, “Have I told them?”
Create Intentional Meeting Rhythms
One way of being intentional is to establish a communication rhythm. With our remote teams, we do this through a series of video and in-person meetings.
Once a week, leaders have a huddle with their teams each week that serves as a clearinghouse for information. This ensures that everyone begins from a common starting point.
Once a month, we have a video call with the entire staff via Zoom. We update the whole team on our financial results, share updates and celebrations, and take questions from the team.
Each quarter, we bring the entire team together for face-to-face training and goal setting.
Annually, we meet in person to celebrate goal achievement, review our vision and core values, and roll out our goals for the coming year.
Your pattern of communication may differ, but be sure it’s intentional.
Ensure clarity in remote communication by rephrasing, clarifying, and asking questions. You can do that with phrases like “What I mean by that is . . . ,” “In other words, . . .” or, “Are you saying that . . . ?” Our team also loves to use emojis in Slack messages. They help replace facial expression and body language.
Replace Casual Communication
There is no water cooler in remote work—or coffee pot, or lunchroom, or any other context where casual conversation can occur. So you’ll need to replace that.
During Zoom meetings, allow some time for what may seem like idle banter. That talk about weekend activities, baby showers, and sporting events is a vital link between coworkers that builds relationships and trust and fosters collaboration.
We also find Slack to be a good venue for personal interaction. We created a #water-cooler channel where teammates to share things like weekend wins, birth announcements, casual conversations, and jokes.
For nearly a decade now, Michael Hyatt & Company has thrived by using remote or partly remote teams. It does work. You really can be every bit as efficient and productive using remote communication.
For more great insights on office communication, get my free resource Clear Communication Tips, a series of daily tips for clear communication in your business.