By: Leandra | August 11, 2020

Woman on Video Conference

By: Christina Nguyen

If you’ve been staying in touch with our previous blog posts, you’ll see that we’ve been discussing all kinds of topics regarding working from home. While our views on working from home are pretty positive (if you make the best of it, of course), it still comes with a host of its own challenges.

One major issue is communication, whether it’s not getting enough of it, having difficulty getting your point across over text messaging, or your coworkers taking major offense at something that didn’t go over well in text but would have been just fine in person. These issues can hinder the flow of both internal and external operations, such as liaising with vendors and clients. 

Communication with an absence of or fewer non-verbal cues can sometimes be difficult, but don’t lose hope!

Here are some of our tips on how to maintain efficient, effective remote communication to ensure a cohesive, smooth, and happy working experience:

  1.  Define expectations beforehand.

How would you like for your employees or clients to communicate? Set some guidelines beforehand so that everyone’s on the same page. For example, some people may work more independently and not speak up often. If you prefer for your employees to give you frequent check-ins regarding the status of their work, let them know so they aren’t waiting until the deadline is looming in front of you to express their feelings. 

Even for people who are normally somewhat communicative, not having their team members sitting close to them can make them less likely to reach out. You can encourage them to reach out more so they aren’t dealing with issues that could be resolved with some collaboration. If they show difficulty getting on the same page as you, ask if you can check in with them. 

For any new clients, you could include your interaction options in your initial communications. If you traditionally conducted most of your business in person, keep in mind that this is a transition for your existing clients too. Make it as simple as possible for them to keep in touch with you. 

  1. Ask for communication preferences.

Some people rarely check their email but might be active on Slack. Others aren’t great at texting back but their email replies are on point. Ask what your team members prefer to use for communication. If anything overlaps with something you’re not the best with, try your best to improve your efficiency with it. 

  1. Think about the possible impact, not just the intent, of your words.

This is something we should always be doing whether we’re having an in-person conversation or are texting someone a thousand miles away. When you’ve got nothing but text, your words carry all the weight of your intent. 

This means your body language and the tone of your voice aren’t there to lighten up or intensify your message. Some messages, such as “please get this done by later today” can sound harsh when it isn’t accompanied by your usual smile. You might have to rephrase some of your words to soften them up since your nonverbal cues can’t do the work for you. Even over video chat, some mannerisms aren’t as visible. 

Fortunately, there’s tech out there to help. The online grammar-checker Grammarly is now able to detect the tone of your writing, ranging from happy, professional, direct, or sad. 

The less someone knows you, the more important that is. So when you’re first getting to know a new client or vendor, you’ll want to be especially careful and reread your words to check for anything that looks potentially jarring.

  1. If anyone says anything jarring, don’t assume the worst.

Not everyone is going to grasp what we were talking about in #3 right away. If any team member says something that sounds pretty negative, don’t assume the worst intention. Remember, you didn’t see their face or body language when they were typing that. Even if it was over video chat, remember that social cues still aren’t fully visible. 

If anyone says something seemingly offensive, insensitive, or inappropriate in any way, ask for clarification. Let them know the impact of their words. Ask what they meant and why they said that. Don’t engage in drama over a mere miscommunication.

Any ambiguous communication of any kind should be addressed and avoided. If any misunderstandings come up with anyone, discuss with them why their words weren’t easily understandable and how to avoid such ambiguity in the future.

  1. Try to bring back some of that casual workplace convo.

When you’re working remotely, there’s none of that informal, in-passing, watercooler chat. There’s no casual queries of “how’s that ad campaign going along?” or exchanging productivity tips in the lunchroom.  Even if you’re just talking about the fun non-work-related adventures you had over the weekend, these little interactions can be energizing and motivating. They can also help keep you on track with your work.

You won’t be able to bring back this entire social dynamic over video chat, but you can still facilitate some casual conversation at the end of your calls. You can start by asking your team members how their weekends were on Mondays. Ask about weekend plans on Fridays. 

What have you done to improve remote communication in your business? What are some situations we should watch out for and what are your tips for improving? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Stingray Advisory Group LLC: Stingray Advisory Group LLC is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan and is a proud member of Local First and the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. We help businesses grow. By creating customized solutions, we empower businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools to further their development.

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