For many people, working remotely may not be a new experience anymore. Whether your organization is sticking to being fully remote, going hybrid, or considering a digital-first approach, you’re probably still working from home at least part of the time.
It’s been over a year since remote work became more of a norm across the world. Yet some common remote communication pet peeves still drive remote workers crazy!
There are many common communication issues that plague remote workers, from Slack bombs to communications spread across five different apps. Read on to learn more about these issues and helpful strategies for fixing them.
Did you know? Remote communication expert Phil Simon recently joined us on our Ripple Effect podcast. Listen to his episode Reimagining Collaboration in a Remote World now to hear his best tips for remote communication.
When you’re remote, you can’t just hop into someone’s office or grab them in the kitchen for a chat. That’s why keeping calendars up to date is crucial for strong communication and collaboration on remote teams.
Few things are more difficult in a remote setting than finding time on a calendar for a group meeting. If your calendar is not updated, this can cause mass chaos. This includes not keeping your calendar updated with times you’re unavailable as well as blocking time for to-do’s that doesn’t actually need to be blocked.
Now, that’s not to say you can’t put focus blocks on your calendar to have meeting-free times—that’s actually a smart workplace productivity practice. But if you’re simply adding calendar notes with your to-do list and don’t need the time blocked, be sure to set those to “free” to ensure you’re communicating your availability accurately.
Related: The Best Productivity Tools to Manage Tasks, Time, and Yourself
Imagine this scenario: You’re in the zone, chugging along at a great pace and getting a lot of progress done on a project. But then, it happens—a Slack bomb explodes and completely throws off your focus.
What exactly is a Slack bomb? Whether you use Slack as your chat app or not, a Slack bomb is when someone messages you multiple times in a row, within just a few minutes or seconds. This sends multiple notifications your way, which can really throw you off your train of thought.
If you’re a common Slack bomber, try typing your entire message in a single send to avoid sending multiple pings and notifications to your coworker. You may accidentally hit enter too early sometimes, but breaking the habit of sending only one sentence per message will greatly relieve some Slack pains.
If you’re constantly bombarded with Slack bombs, here are some ways to minimize the distractions:
- Turn off the sound on your computer
- Pause Slack notifications
- Use a calendar app, like Oliv, to set focus times on Slack
- Close Slack when you are in true need of pure focus time
Chat apps are incredibly helpful for remote work, but they can also become very distracting. Putting in some guardrails for how you use them can make all the difference in your workday.
Bouncing Between Apps
One big thing Phil points out as a deterrent to efficient remote communication is bouncing between different apps to communicate on a singular topic or project.
With so many tools at our disposal, it can be easy to let conversations extend across apps, which leads to missing information or losing track of progress. Now is a great time to reevaluate processes to ensure your team understands what app should be used when.
If you’re reporting on project progress across email, a chat app, a project management tool, and meeting check-ins, something is bound to fall through the cracks. It’s best to settle on one source of truth for communication and stick with it.
At one point in time, a core value at Formstack was “communicate status.” This was an incredibly important value as we shifted to a remote-first culture nearly a decade ago.
As you know, it can be difficult to just “check in” with someone when fully remote. If you’re not continually sharing updates and openly communicating, it can seem like you’re working in isolation and leaving teammates in the dark. Keeping others in the loop is the best way to minimize misunderstandings and ensure strong collaboration.
The more you can communicate status, the better! Be vocal on what is happening during team check-ins, ensure you’re keeping your project management system updated, and try to keep a consistent cadence of updates coming to your team.
It is possible to overcommunicate, but in a remote world, it is pretty difficult to tip the scale dramatically. Communicating your project status, milestones, challenges, and needs will set you up for success and create a productive, transparent work environment.
Let’s get social! Have your own remote communication pet peeve to add to our list? Tweet it to us @formstack!
Going fully or partially remote means you have to set some specific standards around communication. This includes deciding what communications happen through what medium. For instance, you may set a standard that project requests are submitted through a form, while all project updates should be communicated through your project management system.
As Phil discusses in his Ripple Effect episode, everyone needs to follow the communication norms set by your organization. When people don’t follow communication standards, it can create an unorganized, inefficient work environment that makes communication and collaboration even more difficult.
Sometimes, people may not realize they are breaking communication standards. When this happens, simply offering a friendly reminder on the right process may be enough to course-correct. For those who are constantly communicating outside the norm, even after multiple discussions, it may be best to work with your manager on a plan of action.
Strictly Relying on Chat
As much as people love chat, it does have its limitations. You can’t see facial expressions, and you often can’t get a real sense of tone or attitude through written communication. Sometimes, chatting through a messenger app can be more harmful than helpful.
When these situations arise, don’t be afraid to say you would rather jump on a phone call or video chat to discuss the matter. This is especially helpful when discussing a sensitive, emotional, or difficult topic. Some discussions simply shouldn’t be had over chat at all! Feel empowered that chat is not your only line of remote communication; you should have multiple communication channels in your toolbelt to use when they best fit the situation and circumstances.
Read Next: Remote Communication Deep Dive: Cultivating a Successful Distributed Workforce
Communicating Better in a Remote World
Having set standards for communication in a remote-first setting will ensure your team can work efficiently, day in and day out. Yet sometimes, we default from what is expected, whether accidentally or not.
If any of the communication problems above are impacting your workday productivity on a normal basis, it may be time to reach out to HR to discuss some workplace training on remote work best practices. The more your team is able to communicate, the better off you will be in this digital world.
Discover more best practices and tips on how to communicate digitally by listening to Phil’s Ripple Effect episode Future of Work: Reimagining Collaboration in a Remote World now!