Chances are if you work remotely your team will either use Slack or Teams, sure there are some other alternatives but in the interest of not writing out 50 competitors, let’s take the two.
These tools are great, making collaboration across time-zones simple when people are only a message away.
Yet therein lies the problem, your team is only a message away.
“10 unread notifications”
“Hey, do you have 5 minutes now?”
Most likely you’ll be familiar with the above and in my opinion that’s a problem. And it’s a problem you can’t solve on your own, sure you can set your own boundaries as I’ve written about before.
But what you can’t do by yourself is change an entire company culture. It takes leadership and managers, and everyone to get comfortable with communication rules.
Now you’re most probably thinking “Why do I need communication rules?” Because no one can do their best work when they are being constantly interrupted all-day.
Sure, there are some exceptions to this rule and your specific role may require more interruption than most (again I’m talking generally here).
Remote Communication is asynchronous
What does asynchronous even mean?
“Not occuring at the same time”. That means you can message me and I don’t need to be there to receive the message and send a reply back. I can reply when it’s convenient for me and you can reply when it’s convenient for you.
Dangers of Appearing Online for Communication
It happens all the time in remote work environments, you have your status set to online and a colleague messages you, yet you’re involved in deep-work, a meeting or something else and then they’re sitting there “why aren’t they replying to me?” “Did I piss them off?” “Am I getting fired”?
You know the whole overthinking in remote communication land. It’s easily done.
If someone is online it doesn’t mean they are online sitting on top of their computer waiting to respond to every message that comes to them in nanoseconds.
It means they are online working. I personally know people who purposefully appear offline so they don’t have that pressure of responding instantly.
That means that you shouldn’t send messages like:
“Hey, you around?”
“Hey, got 5 minutes?”
“Hey, can you help me with something?”.
In a remote work environment context is key. So rather than “Can you help me with something?”, say what you need help with, rather than “Hey, you around”, send the context, in my experience it nearly always means, have time for a quick call.
So instead “If you’re around, can you jump on a call in the next 30 minutes”. Or better yet just send a calendar invitation.
Remote communication can be tricky, overtime it gets easier and becomes more second nature than thinking through every single action.
The most important thing is to be aware that the team you work with aren’t sitting on their hands waiting for a message to respond to.