Efficient Remote Communication With Your Employees
Natalie Ediger, April 1, 2020· Communication
Home office communication: 8 mistakes you should avoid
Remote work and communication go hand in hand. Without intensive internal communication, we are all individual loners, working on separate activities in isolation from the outside world. Communication however is what unites us regionally, nationally, internationally, globally and makes us a team. A team that works towards a common goal. And this is why internal communication is so important, especially in the home office.
And to better understand what good remote communication should look like, it is first of all important to understand what it should not look like. Here we go, 8 typical mistakes in home office communication that you should avoid.
Not providing enough clarity
If you give the team a specific instruction, you know exactly what you expect from the team. But that doesn’t mean that the team understands your message the same way.
In everyday office life, this is much easier, because facial expressions and gestures contribute significantly to communication. In addition, the employee has the opportunity to ask a direct question. In home office, however, it is even more important to give detailed instructions and not to expect the team to read between the lines. Therefore, make sure that the distribution of tasks, the goal, the purpose and time frame as well as all necessary resources are clearly defined for each project.
Especially in written communication, each punctuation mark and word can give the message a completely different meaning. Therefore, adapt your communication style specifically to the employees and leave no room for misinterpretation.
Lack of face-to-face communication
Although written communication in home office is more efficient, nothing can replace the power of a personal conversation. For this reason, regular face-to-face meetings should always be included as well. Face-to-face communication creates a dialogue and thus also enables more complex topics and issues to be discussed in greater detail avoiding misunderstandings. At the same time, video conferencing encourages social interaction that would otherwise be largely absent in the home office. Organize weekly team updates to get a better overview of the work processes on the one hand, but also to actively promote a sense of community.
Neglecting time zones and working hours
As already explained in one of our last articles, the majority of remote communication is asynchronous. Especially if you offer flexible working hours to your team or even work across several time zones, you should always keep an eye on the respective time of the employee before delivering new tasks.
When does the employee start working? Has he or she already finished the workday? Although communication should be as responsive as possible, this is simply not always possible in the home office.
Also, please be humane when organizing video conferences. In times of crisis, every motivated employee will be prepared to hold a conversation outside normal office hours. However, this should not be the norm and should also not be taken for granted. So if you have to schedule a meeting at 6 a.m. or midnight because of the time difference, make sure beforehand that the employee is not too stressed and that he or she clearly agrees. Remote work does not mean 24/7 availability.
Not involving the team in online meetings
In a face-to-face meeting, conversations are much easier; the team can express themselves spontaneously to communicate something in real time. With online meetings, the situation is a little different: Many remote employees don’t feel comfortable interrupting the speaker to share their own ideas. If you as a manager don’t give the team the opportunity to actively participate in the conversation, you risk missing important input from your employees. Therefore, we already emphasized in our last post that it is extremely important to think carefully before a meeting about how to activate the team in the best possible way.
Not setting a regulated standard
A short clarification: Remote work does not mean that we all become lonely like cavemen without any social contacts. Remote Work does not mean that we are mentally overloaded after 24/7 shifts and stroll through life with Redbull. Remote work does not mean that we stream Netflix all day long instead of working.
And now here comes the “but”: Of course you have to communicate these standards to the employees and keep a straight line. You don’t think it’s ok if employees don’t show up on time for an online meeting? Then communicate it!
You’re telling the employee that a regulated work-life balance has priority, but sending the team tasks that need to be done over the weekend? Especially because working hours in the home office can be arranged more flexibly and you don’t have a direct overview of which tasks the team is currently working on, it is even more important to set clear standards about what is acceptable in the company and what is not. And that from day 1 on. Keep your hands off a “zigzag” strategy according to the motto “sometimes this way, sometimes that way”. We already have the mandarin in the White House doing that.
Once you have clearly defined your expectations, the team will also handle the answers responsibly. Then you don’t have to unnecessarily remind your team of deadlines. That only puts pressure and shows your distrust towards the team anyway.
Not allowing yourself enough time to answer
Have you ever sent a message with anger and fear and then regretted it? As humans, we often get influenced emotionally and therefore forget to react rationally. Careless and too fast actions can often lead to bad outcomes. Always take a moment before you press “send” and choose the wrong words towards the employee.
Sometimes it is worth taking a complete step away, working on something else and only returning to this answer a few hours later. Believe me, your personal opinion on the subject will be very different if you answer it emotionally rightaway or slightly later instead. Emotional answers often create an unprofessional impression and question your leadership qualities.
A big problem in remote work is the often poor communication. In general, the rule of thumb is that it is better to “ping” the employee once too often than to be left in the dark. Not sure if your employee will meet the deadline? You do not know if he has understood the task at all? Or is he or she extremely overloaded at the moment? Or even dissatisfied? My personal motto for home office communication: “When in doubt, get loud! It is better to ask slightly more questions once in a while than not enough. A simple extra question can save you hours of work and nerves afterwards.
Using the wrong communication tools
Many companies still rely too much on e-mail for internal communication. E-mail communication is suitable for formal inquiries with business partners and customers, but not for a quick day-to-day exchange of information with employees. E-mails arrive delayed at the recipient, can end up in spam or even get lost among those tons of other e-mails. To make communication as efficient as possible, you should switch to Messenger Apps and collaboration tools for everyday information exchange.
Also, be careful not to use too many programs, so that the communication does not become confusing and gets lost on different platforms. Ideally you have a project management tool, a place for instant messaging and a preferred app for video calls. And that’s it!
Communication as an important driver for remote work
Instead of “less is more”, the motto in the home office is “never enough”. Remote communication requires intensive commitment and motivation of the entire team. Pay attention to clear and precise formulations, set guidelines and do not forego regular face-to-face contact. Also don’t forget those little small talks and team hangouts to maintain the company culture.
Don’t blame your team if things don’t run smoothly from day 1. Communication must be well coordinated and it takes time for employees to find this routine. Would you like to learn more about Remote Work? Then browse through our blog or contact us.