An email should have been used for this meeting. That email ought to have been sent through Slack. It should have been a video call or in-person conversation instead of a Slack message. The way we communicate and the approach we take can have a huge impact on the result. When the method of communication is poor, diminishes productivity, or wastes people’s time, it has long been a source of frustration for workers.
WHAT LESSONS CAN WE TAKE AWAY FROM ALL-REMOTE ORGANIZATIONS? Since years, I’ve been writing on this topic, most recently in my book The Everything Guide to Remote Work (Opens in a new window) . In comparison to physical locations, remote businesses must necessarily consider workplace communication more carefully. Why? They don’t have the same possibilities as teams that work together in person, so they need to be careful about how they communicate. Younger remote organizations are also less likely to carry the same cultural baggage as more established ones. The likelihood of established practices is higher in older businesses. A corporation whose culture places undue emphasis on in-person meetings is a prime example. Because they’ve always done things that way, people tend to think that the in-person meeting is the best method to launch a project or routinely check in with a team, for example. It eventually breeds a belief that face-to-face conferences are essential to the procedure.
On the other hand, remote organizations must reconsider how business is conducted. Their leaders are more open to experimenting with new forms of communication that ultimately prove to be more effective for the message and are less inclined to believe that meetings have magical powers.
What can we learn about improving workplace communication from remote work, then?
1. Ask yourself, “What is the purpose? ” Ask yourself what the purpose is before scheduling your next meeting or composing your next email. What are you trying to achieve? Do you:
delivering simple information
requesting suggestions or opinions
resolving an issue
or another thing?
Decide what you want to happen rather than focusing on what you need to say.
2. Learn about all of your options. If meetings, emails, and face-to-face interactions are your preferred methods of workplace communication, it’s time to branch out and learn about your other possibilities.
Every kind of communication has advantages and disadvantages. The secret is to choose the one that most aligns with your goals.
Slack and Microsoft Teams are two excellent team messaging platforms for sending brief, concise messages. They’re also really useful for polling your team, whether you’re looking for input on your meeting procedures or the ideal time to host one. Regularly polling coworkers is a kind of communication that can encourage more honest feedback by including it into routine tasks.
Add screen sharing and the usage of an online whiteboard to the audio and video calls that the majority of people are already familiar with. Some whiteboards have built-in video conferencing features, whereas others, like Miro, function on their own.
And it brings up the possibility of collaborating and communicating via an online whiteboard instead of using a video conference. Similarly, a basic shared document like a Google Doc will work just well for some forms of brainstorming. For instance, if brainstorming with your partners requires being on a call at the same moment, let everyone brainstorm independently. They have more time to consider their ideas and can work on them whenever it is convenient for them rather than whenever the meeting is called.
You can also mix and match choices. Hold a slightly shorter meeting a few days later to discuss the ideas after giving everyone access to a shared document or whiteboard where they can submit their suggestions.
3. SELECT THE APPROPRIATE FORMAT Use your knowledge of what you want to happen to choose the appropriate communication channel. Do not hold a meeting if you are providing clear information because you do not require everyone to be there at the same time. Instead, think about creating a clear email and spending the time to edit it. Longer communications that might need to be referred to more than once are useful for email. Consider publishing a message in a team communication app if the information is brief. Or perhaps a succession of messages would be more effective, allowing you to repeat the message and ensure that everyone hears and sees it multiple times.
Giving feedback would be another illustration. Even if it’s virtual, you should have a face-to-face chat if you have challenging constructive criticism since the other person needs the chance to clarify their understanding and ask questions. And they are entitled to the respect of hearing the words spoken by a person in their own voice and body language. You should be aware of the other person’s time and space when giving comments. A difficult talk should not be had in a public setting with other people around if you know the other person won’t be able to handle it well.
4. SPEAK DIRECTLY TO THOSE RECEIVING THE MESSAGE. Working remotely requires you to communicate as much as you can. Say it again. Recognize an effort well done. Give a thorough explanation of the new procedures.
We can always be more explicit in our professional communications, which is yet another way to overcommunicate. “I’m disclosing this data because…” “We’re holding this gathering so that everyone can ask questions,”
To be really honest, getting folks to be explicit at times feels like pulling teeth. How many people still invite people to meetings without providing an agenda? It shouldn’t be difficult though. Just let folks know what you’re hoping to achieve (keep in mind step 1, “What is the purpose?”). Others will be much better able to contribute if you make your goals clear.
Another benefit of being transparent is that it increases the likelihood that everyone will buy-in when the goal and justification are clear. People are more likely to support your choice and hold you to it if you present a compelling case for why you should hold a meeting rather than send an email.
5. BE RESPONSIVE TO CHANGE How would you know if the method of communication you chose was successful? Ask! Asking for people’s frank thoughts while being explicit and overcommunicating are both good strategies. Did you find that method of brainstorming effective? Should an email have been used for this meeting? Or perhaps it would be preferable to ask, “Was this meeting effective, or how do you think we could have arrived at the same or better result in a more effective way?”
Be willing to make changes, but also resist giving up on novel ways of communicating simply because they seem awkward at first. Discover their benefits and when it makes sense to use them instead of a different approach.
Read these 20 recommendations for working remotely and these 15 strategies to make meetings more accessible for more workplace guidance.
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