Online meeting

How to communicate effectively while working remotely


by Hannah Freeman, October 27, 2020

Remote work has been challenging lately.

As someone who also works from home, I can honestly say that it comes with certain challenges, and through observation, it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that communication is one of the biggest obstacles. 

Effective and clear communication is beyond just words. It goes hand in hand with several other aspects like non-verbal cues, active listening and emotional intelligence. 

What does this mean in the world of remote working? No matter if you’re already working from home or are just about to start, here are some tips to help the communication go without any problems.

Do not assume someone understands what you’re saying

Most people are actually not good communicators by nature. Communication skills are learned, and training is rarely provided by companies to their teams. 

So we often find ourselves in situations where our messages, emails and texts are misinterpreted. Nick Morgan (author of “Can you hear me?”) says that when employees rely on their information virtually, they believe that others will understand their messages 90% of the time, when the reality is that it’s only 50% of the time!

This can happen due to the fact that many people believe that online communication is the same as a face-to-face one. And even though virtual communication allows you to communicate faster and more conveniently it heavily lacks feedback, emotions, connection and control. 

Avoid confusion 

When you’re using vague words, you might be confusing the receiver. This often happens when you assume that the receiver or an employee understands exactly what you’re referring to. Some of the confusing words are: “it”, “that”, “this”. 

Just think of this situation – you send the following message: “I think we should change this, and the other page too. I don’t agree with it anymore”. 

It’s very confusing, isn’t it?

You can see in that example that it is lacking context in what the terms This and It mean. Employees are most likely juggling multiple clients and tasks, and they will be left in confusion, trying to figure out what you meant, or even what client you’re referring to.

To be more clear, try saying something like this instead: “I changed the due date information on the second page of the XY audit file, because I think we can’t make it in the period we agreed before.”

Girls sitting together and working

Make your intent clear

When working remotely, people are communicating with content. If their intent is clear then there will be no room for misperception. When you’re assigning a task or giving any directions to colleagues or clients, be very clear and explain with a lot of details.

If you’re a leader, be clear with your employees by answering the following questions before communication in any written form:

  • What is an employee’s task and what is expected to do?
  • What is the deadline?
  • Do they need to work with someone on the task?
  • Why is the task important?

After writing your message, whether it’s on Slack or an email, read it out loud and see whether it makes sense.

Think critically

It’s very easy to blame miscommunication on the person who is receiving the message or the one who is sending it. Try not to be that person. Nobody likes the person who is playing the Blame game. Instead of that, be thoughtful of how your message could be interpreted. 

Here are our tips on it:

  • Adapt your communication to the person you’re talking to
  • Think of the time your message will be delivered 
  • Ask for feedback whenever it’s needed
  • Be clear and summarize information

Don’t forget about the medium for the message. If you’re delivering feedback, it can oftentimes be done through a chat, but following it up with a phone call can greatly help in avoiding any miscommunication. 

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