Navigating the Challenges of Remote Work

Time and Workload Management - © Performance Management Consultants

As many organizations settle into the day-to-day realities of remote work, effective communication has become an increasingly essential skill. A disconnected or uninformed team can derail projects, lower morale, and slow down your workflow. Even for those with excellent in-person communication skills, adapting to an online setting can be a challenge. We’ve identified some of the key areas where online communication breaks down and found methods of dealing with their root causes.

So how can you streamline your remote workflow?

The Right Channel: To Zoom, or not to Zoom?

Choosing the appropriate digital tool to deliver information can be as vital a choice as the content of the message itself. It’s important to use the resources at your disposal, be it video conferencing, email, or co-working software to convey that you respect the time and input of those you work alongside. Simply put: the medium is the message. It’s worth putting a little extra thought into choosing the appropriate communication channel to ensure your message is received in the best light. No one enjoys inefficiency. Organizing video calls only to deliver short updates can be as frustrating for a busy team as having an inbox full of densely-packed text.

Keep in mind the nature of your message as you decide how it should be delivered. For a single-recipient memo a quick email would often suffice, but if the matter is urgent or you think the receiver may want to discuss it further you should consider arranging a phone or video call instead. Communication with a wider audience can be more complicated, but keep in mind that recordings are always an option for when you simply need to convey the information without any discussion. A link to a video or audio recording can be a welcome break from long-form emails and allows the recipient to listen at a time that suits their needs.

Keep it Simple

Try to be as concise as possible in your correspondence while still painting a complete picture. No matter the channel you choose, context is key to getting a point across. Introduce the topic clearly in your subject line and elaborate in an introductory paragraph.

Remember that simple doesn’t mean vague. Mysterious emails such as, “Are you available for a call this afternoon? I would like to ask you about something,” are stressful to receive and don’t allow the recipient to prepare for the conversation. If you only need the answer to a question, try asking it in the message first, and only reach out for a virtual meeting if you need further clarification.

If you have a lot of information to communicate at once, try to organize it under multiple sections with clear headers to break up an intimidating read. Think about whether some of the information could be represented visually, in screenshots, charts, or diagrams.

Restate the most important information at the end to solidify the main points and provide a quick summary to review later. It should be clear by the end of your message what you want the reader to do and how urgently they need to do it.

Foster a Collaborative Work Culture

The culture of a workplace is heavily influenced by its management style, policies, practices, and the actions of its members. Putting in the effort as individuals to create a team culture of support and positivity is more important than ever in a remote setting. Simple actions, like taking time to recognize achievements, welcoming constructive criticism, and encouraging each other’s professional development can have a significant impact on your work environment.

Social connections are another important factor for maintaining the positive culture of an organization. Working remotely removes many of the opportunities employees have to naturally build relationships with one another, and members of your team might be feeling demoralized or cut off from the social aspect of their work.

While there are limited substitutions available for these social encounters, organizing video or phone calls with co-workers during lunch breaks or larger ‘Virtual Happy Hour’ calls after work (or even ‘Virtual Coffee Breaks’ during work) are a couple examples of practices that can help keep a team connected.

These types of initiatives are even more important if you have new employees who joined your organization remotely. Inviting them to activities where they can get to know their new co-workers can help prevent the feelings of alienation that might follow joining an existing team virtually.

Plan Ahead

To maximize your efficiency in online meetings, make sure everyone involved understands the topic and goal of the call beforehand. If you didn’t organize the meeting and are unsure of what you will be discussing, reach out to the organizer for clarification or ideally, an agenda. Prepare any information or documents you may need ahead of time so they are easily accessible during the call and eliminate interruptions and distractions to the best of your ability.

One of the benefits of video conferencing is that you retain control over your vocal and visual cues and by extension, how your message is received. Most people have a ‘telephone voice’ they can default to in order to make their tone more friendly and the same applies to video calls. Adopting a more polite cadence helps to maintain professionalism and is a positive habit whether you’re speaking with a co-worker, manager, or client.

Visual cues are extremely important not only for communicating your own information, but for showing that you are truly engaged. Practicing active listening using your body language can help assure others in the call that you are fully processing their input and that you aren’t experiencing technical issues. Why would we initiate video calls if we only wanted to stare at a static image while we speak? By practicing affirmative listening, you can put others at ease as they navigate a difficult digital landscape (and don’t forget to stare into your webcam every so often to simulate eye contact!).

In the transition to remote working, new challenges can pop up when they’re least expected. Building a solid foundation of effective communication practices among your team can make setbacks much more manageable. And when a team feels connected, they will be more invested in resolving conflicts and overcoming problems.

Learn More About Working Remotely

To learn more, have a look at our Increase Productivity and Results When Working from Home half-day workshop.  In addition to remote communication strategies, you’ll learn how to set goals that inspire motivation how to identify your own motivational factors, and how to be self-directed and coordinate your time effectively. Register today!

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