We find ourselves in an unexpected situation with many Americans, and people around the world, working from home. Many of us are working remotely for the first time (or certainly much longer than we’re used to). You may be asking yourself how to communicate effectively while working remotely.

  • How can I engage our colleagues in constructive and positive ways?
  • How can I retain productivity without our comfortable office environment?
  • Most of all, how can I avoid those awkward video conferencing meetings?

Follow these tips to effectively communicate with your colleagues:

#1: Take Care in Electronic Communications

Digital communications lack all of the nuance of face-to-face (or even phone) conversations. You can’t read facial expressions or hear voice inflections because most remote work communications are by email, text, or message. Please follow these simple rules for better understanding:

TONE: Check and re-check your text communications for a tone that might be misunderstood. Avoid terse responses when possible. ALL CAPS could make your email recipient question your intentions or an auto-corrected/typo-laden response could make your text entirely misunderstood.

CLARIFICATION: Along with checking your spelling and grammar, be sure that your instructions or explanations are completely clear. Because email and text don’t have the same back and forth as a phone call or in-person conversation, you must make yourself understood as simply as possible. Add more explanation and details than usual so that there is no misunderstanding.

#2: Create Frequent Opportunities to Communicate

If your company holds all-staff meetings and stand-ups during the normal course of business, continue those schedules while your team is working from home.

MAINTAIN ROUTINES: Routines are extremely important to maintain productivity. Keep all regularly scheduled meetings.

CONSIDER INCREASING FREQUENCY OF MEETINGS WHILE REDUCING THE LENGTH: Gone are the days of stopping by someone’s office or talking at the water cooler. Make a point to schedule more meetings while you’re working from home than you would while everyone is in the office. Frequent, quick meetings ensure that everyone is aligned and invested in the objectives.

#3: Set & Implement Protocols for Online Meetings

Everyone has been on a conference call with dogs yapping in the background and team members unintentionally muting or unmuting themselves. These are all distractions from an otherwise effective meeting. Implement a few of these protocols for a more effective remote meeting.

SEND INSTRUCTIONS: Send call instructions in advance. Encourage participants to test out their computer microphones and other equipment before joining a call.

SET RULES: At the outset of every meeting make sure that participants are clear on meeting protocols. In two sentences you ask everyone to mute their phones when not speaking and to hold questions until the end, for example.

STICK TO THE AGENDA: Send an agenda in advance and stick to it. Participants will be less likely to interrupt if they know what’s coming.

MUTE PASSIVE PARTICIPANTS: Consider muting participants who are not speaking to avoid irritating audio feedback, dog-barking, and typing sounds.

UTILIZE CHAT: Use chat functions or email to have participants in a call with many participants to ask questions. This will allow you to curate questions and cut down on the feedback and distractions that multiple users on a call may invite.

Principal & Co-founder at ThinkWell Consulting | lauren@thinkwellconsulting.com

Lauren Yates is a principal and co-founder of ThinkWell Consulting, LLC. Here, she writes about consulting, entrepreneurship, and digital marketing.

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