Clear Communication is More Crucial Than Ever
Updated: Dec 3, 2020
We here at TopVA are no strangers to telecommuting. As virtual assistants, our work is exclusively done remotely. So, how do we do it? What enables us to function as well as—if not better than—our in-office counterparts? Clear communication.
Working with others will always pose challenges, and this is made even more apparent when the people you work with are miles away. Chat messaging apps like Slack go a long way towards facilitating communication between remote parties, but plenty can get lost without nonverbal cues and vocal tone. After all, it’s incredibly difficult to replicate face-to-face communication. Fortunately, there’s always video chat.
Yes, video chat is great for online meetings, but having the camera on for prolonged periods may cause some team members to be concerned with privacy and boundaries, so it’s best to only do video calls to discuss important matters.
But what about casual social interaction? This is something that is severely lacking in most—if not all—remote teams. Water cooler talks and lunch conversations are the norms for office workers, but remote workplaces don’t often give team members the opportunity to engage in small talk. This leads to a feeling of disconnection and alienation, which can cause issues in productivity and work satisfaction down the line.
Another remote team communication hurdle involves the need to create redundancies in the way you disseminate information. When you work with someone in the same place, it’s typically easier to get a hold of them when you need to. For telecommuters, your ability to reach a team member is completely dependent on your methods of communication, such as email, messaging apps, phone calls, or video calls. That’s what the redundancies are for. The more options you have, the better your chances of getting in touch.
After considering the challenges inherent in remote work communications, what can you do to make things go smoother for you and your team in the virtual workplace? Here are a few tips:
Wait, these are different ABCs.
A.B.C. (Always Be Clear)
Never Assume: Just to be on the safe side, don’t assume that everyone on your team knows exactly what you know. The inverse is also true, you can't possibly know everything. By recognizing that there are inherent knowledge gaps in any organization, no matter their size, you will be better prepared to disseminate information the right way.
Give Proper Context: When delegating or discussing tasks with your team members, always provide them with the full range of information they need. Give the what, where, when, how, and why. Provide all the resources and references they might need as well. A well-informed team is more efficient as there is less need for constant back-and-forth inquiries.
Refrain From Using Vague Language: In the interest of clarity, forego the use of vague or ambiguous language. Be specific and straightforward. Don’t overuse pronouns like this, that, or it. Instead, refer to things using their actual names or use detailed descriptions to make sure you and your team are on the same page.
Set the Ground Rules
Create Communication Tiers: Give each comms platform a specific purpose and make sure they are used the right way. For instance, chatting is quick and easy and can be used for regular conversations. Meetings can be done over voice calls and you can correspond over email if you need a paper trail or a reference you can go back to. Remember, these are just examples. You have to find what best fits your team.
Respect Boundaries: The line between being at work and being at home has blurred in the wake of the pandemic. But for us here at TopVA, this isn’t new, it’s normal. That’s why we had to learn how to respect each other’s boundaries. Respecting boundaries means respecting the work and the rest schedule of your workmates. After all, nobody wants to fuss about work during the weekends.
Foster Social Interaction
Perform Regular Check-Ins: Your people want their efforts to be recognized, they want to know when they did things right—and when they did things wrong. Most importantly, they simply want their voices to be heard and their presence acknowledged. Check in on your people and get to know their situation. Doing so will forge a stronger bond, and with that, a stronger team.
Be Understanding and Reasonable: The foundation of all effective communication is trust. You trust the other person to listen and understand. In turn, you are also expected to be clear with your words and open to their responses. Miscommunication is sometimes unavoidable, so a certain amount of leeway has to be in place to get things back on track.
To be clear, this is just what works for us. Every organization has its unique ways of navigating the difficulties involved with remote team communication. We’d love to learn yours!
Drop your insights in the comments and let’s get a discussion going. Who knows, you might just learn something new!