“Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another must become a thought as to how we might help that other, should the need arise.” - Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of Los Angeles
When working remotely, communicating well becomes an order of magnitude more important than when working in person. The fabric that ties everyone together is no longer a physical office but a combination of email + slack + zoom + etc.
It's vital to learn what message goes with which medium and how to structure them effectively.
- For example: some simple messages are best done in slack where as others can be quickly solved in a 2 min zoom (and save unending *pings*)
Be explicit (but not, you know.....expli***)
When you first start working remotely you quickly notice how much information is spread just by the nature of being in and around the office. You can pretty quickly figure out what people are working on, who is working with whom and even how projects are going just by seeing how people move around and what the energy is like for a particular team. Those little cues can help motivate you and draw you to different ideas, or you can jump in and lend in a hand if folks are struggling. All of that is lost when you're remote first. So you have to learn to be explicit about all of those things when you are working remotely.
👨🏿💻Have a general channel that is announcements, a water cooler channel, some directory to help people navigate the rooms, and then also team channels set to public.
👍🏽Build a culture of trust so people will post in rooms and not in 1:1 DMs. It's a bit of an extreme view, but we believe you should have almost no DMs and pretty much everything should be in a group chat.
- The message doesn't have to involve everyone to warrant posting — as long as it's a chunk of the folks, post it there. It will obviously get noisier if you post everything in a group channel, but it gives other folks on the team an opportunity to see what is going, follow discussions, chime in, etc.
- So much info is lost in DMs, posting in the group helps make sure everyone is on the same page, preserves a history, and also just makes the room feel more vibrant and alive as opposed to a bunch of 1:1 convos. And it really helps build trust and a level of comfort for others to share and think out loud openly with the group instead of having to retreat to a variety of 1:1's before sharing with the group.
🏡Posting when you're in, what you're doing, when you're away, and your statuses are important.
- Remote teams are often async even if in the same time zone as people have things to do. So saying hello to the team, updating them on what you're working on (and not in a formal standup way, just like you would if you were catching up with a friendly coworker), and how things are going is always a good idea.
- I always think using Slack statuses are good idea too - if you're doing deep work, change your status so that people can see it and mute Slack. And then come back and process the messages later.
Video + Phone Calls
The quick version is: wear pants, use headphones and mute yourself when you aren’t talking.
Regardless if you are on a video call or conference call, it’s important to:
- Use headphones
- Mute yourself when you are not talking
- Be in a quiet space
Note: when you’re on a call that is more than a few people, it helps to state “this is [YOUR NAME]” before you start speaking, so everyone is on the same page.
- Mute yourself when you aren’t talking
- Make sure you’re in a quiet space
- Present yourself the way you would in-office (e.g. working from home is not an excuse to let personal hygiene slip, or to live in pajamas)
✍️The Written Word
Before the internet we were all about the hand written, then typed, word. Business people sent memos and secretaries took notes dictated from (we assume) Don Draper looking types in swanky Manhattan offices.
Then BOOM… the internet.
We actually write a lot more than we used to, but many of us have forgotten the subtle art of communicating coherently when the default isn’t IRL (sorry, “in real life”). When you’re working remotely, it’s important not only to write well, but to over-communicate and think through how your words are coming across.
- Use a tool like Grammarly to check your spelling and sentence structure (though it is not omniscient, spell check tools can be wrong from time to time so use your best judgement)
- Use full sentences whenever possible
- Assume benevolence. When we’re communicating via Slack, email, or through another collaboration tool where the default isn’t face-to-face, we often lose the subtle interpersonal signals that tell us “this is a joke”, “this is sarcasm”, etc.
- Use emojis to help others understand the “feeling” behind the text 🤗😭🧐 (we like Emoji Keyboard)
- Get on a phone or video call when you need to have a hard conversation or things are unclear
- Reiterate important items such as time, date, and location as confirmation
Example: Yes, I am looking forward to our Zoom call on Thursday 3/19 at 10am EST.
- Make it clear when requests are urgent to help co-workers prioritize work by using [URGENT] in subject line or bolding relevant information
- Rely too heavily on abbreviations (e.g. IRL, TL;DR, RN, WFM, WTF!?)
- Assume people know what you mean without clarifying or giving details. Drop more than two consecutive asks on instant messaging without creating a clear list (with numbers)
- Hesitate to actually call someone for a quick chat. Many times, that's solved a problem in 5 minutes that would have taken 20 minutes of Slacking or texting
- Don’t let an email thread go unfinished. If you started the thread, take charge and close the loop. Don’t forget any closing statements, actionables, thank you's and/or anything else necessary for others to check it off their list and clear it from their inbox
- Use uncommon abbreviations, unless you define them (e.g. RP = Remote Professional) when they are first used
Slack / other instant comms
- Add profile pictures to your professional communication tools (photos helps your team “see” you when they’re engaging)
- Add details to your profile (such as: Company, Role, phone number, email address, working hours, time-zone)
- Set “do not disturb” times so you can get deep work done
- Turn your “notifications” to “off” for periods of time so you don’t get a flurry of pings throughout the day, look into batch processing communications
- Follow up on requests that haven’t received a response after a reasonable amount of time has passed
- Review previous messages in channels and threads if you have been offline for a bit of time (check from where you left off and before asking a question or engaging in a conversation that might have already happened. Many questions such as “When is this task due?” and “Who else is working on this?” can be answered by scrolling through Slack or wherever this peripheral/public communication is happening)
- Feel beholden to be always “on” or responding unless your team is specifically set up this way
- Get offended if someone doesn’t instantly respond to you, remember practicing deep work is vital when working remotely or you will always be in a reactive state
- Get offended if a piece of text comes off as harsh, remember...intention and tone isn’t always clear in a simple message in Slack, text, Zoom chat, etc
- Hesitate to drop your Zoom link if it is a topic that is easier to discuss over a quick chat
Slip out of your work pants and into some cozies—we're about to talk about Work/Life Balance in a remote world.
> Next up Work-Life Balance in a #WFH World