Communicating in a Remote Work Environment

Communication is tough, make no mistake about it. I’m no expert, you’re not an expert and anyone that says they are well they most likely aren’t. 

Communicating in a traditional office environment you have social queues, body language and often real-time communication. 

Transitioning to a remote-work environment can be a culture shock, someone says “ok”. Your first thought “Shit, they hate me. I’m getting fired”. 

But in their head “Ok, yeah that’s great!” they type “ok” and that language doesn’t come across in the best possible way. 

Remote Communication as a Manager 

As a manager it’s your responsibility to do certain things and one of them is to communicate the business needs clearly and set the expectation from people, while helping fight any anxiety your team may be experiencing. 

Some examples. 

1: Don’t set Meetings Without an Agenda 

We’ve all been there: “Can we chat tomorrow?” or even worse a 1-1 pops up on your calendar with no context. 

As an employee you think you’re going to be fired. Reprimanded. Or that in general something bad is about to happen. 

You. The manager can fix that. Provide context to the call “Hey, can we chat tomorrow about the upcoming release as we need to iron out some minor remaining tasks”. 

In remote communication context is everything. No context gives people that foreboding sense of dread like the grim reaper is coming for them, and their time is up. 

2. Learn Your Employees Communication Style 

In my day job as Product Manager at LearnDash I manage the engineering/Product team. This team consists of all great folks but all with very different communication styles and needs. 

As a manager it’s my job to learn their styles, what they need and communicate with them in a way that makes them feel comfortable. 

In other words you can retain your own communication methodology but match their style. 

It’s a simple but effective way of inclusion and making your team feel comfortable which produces the best work results. 

Communicating Remotely in General 

In an office immediate answers are more normal than not. Nudging a colleague next to you, your boss walking in and asking a question. 

But in a remote environment communication is generally asynchronous which in laymen terms means that a message you send now, I might not respond to until tomorrow. 

Remote communication tools like Slack. Microsoft Teams, Twist, and others are asynchronous tools that are designed to let people respond when they are free. 

If you’re in deep work, the last thing you want is to keep getting disturbed. So it’s on you as an employee in a remote first company to understand that someone isn’t ignoring you if they don’t respond immediately. 

Emojis Lighten the Mood

A smiley face. A thumbs up. A rolling on the floor laughing emoji. Whatever emoji you use it can communicate a thousand words, an emoji helps provide context to your meaning behind the words.

Ok 🙂 — Sure that’s fine, I’m happy. 

Ok — Happy, sad, annoyed. Who knows apart from the message writer? 

Ok :-/ — Meh, could be better, but whatever. Nonchalant. 

Sometimes emojis are frowned upon and seen as unprofessional. Yet they are a great way to communicate the true feeling behind the sent text. 

Have any tips for remote communication? Share them in the comments below.

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