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Remote Work Communication Tips To Make Your Life Easier

Almost 40% of the US workforce works from home, at least partially. That’s a huge number. Statista says that the size of the US workforce is around 167 million. 40% of that is around 66 million people.

Remote work communication tips

66 million people work remotely in the US today.

Remote work is amazing for a lot of people. You get to spend more time with your family, you can choose when to work, you can travel, you have a better work-life balance — you know all this.

Workplace communication, however, is an issue. In fact, it’s such a big issue that 69% of remote workers say that they’re burnt out because of digital communication tools. Again, percentages don’t communicate this well.

69% amounts to about 46 million people. Studies say that 46 million people aren’t happy with their communication tools.

What is the real problem with remote work communication?

It’s unfortunately not just one problem. It’s quite a few separate issues:

Time zone difference:

If you’re working as a part of a global team, you already know what the issue is — not everyone in your team is working at the same time.

The sales team might be based out of the US while the development team might be in India. That time difference is around 12 hours. So, there’s no real overlap of office hours.

If you want someone on the other team to take a decision, at the very least, you’ll have to wait for half a day. In most cases, that’s just the next working day. This slows things down considerably.

It’s even worse if people within a team have to deal with the time difference.

Lack of face-to-face interaction:

Communication isn’t just about what’s said. It’s much more. Body language, non-verbal cues, tone of voice — they’re all a big part of how we understand what the other person is saying.

Even if you have Shakespeare writing on the other end, Slack messages don’t give you all the information you need.

The other thing is, interacting with people is fun!

Humans are, after all, social animals. Remote work takes this away completely.

Technical hiccups

The speakers don’t seem to work, the mics are almost reliably awful, Slack seems to be down every other day, the company laptop is just horrible, WiFi is glitchy on most days, the office software was designed as an instrument of torture — you’ve been through it all.

It’s not just a question of losing a few minutes. If you’re in a meeting and the WiFi decides to abandon you, there’s a very good chance that you’ve missed something important. Slow software isn’t just about waiting 30 seconds, it’s about losing your focus.

The world did not adopt remote work because it was better but because there was no other way. So, there wasn’t a lot of time to build amazing software and hardware that was designed for people working remotely.

It really shows. Most of the tools remote workers use were built either in a hurry or as a slightly more convenient way to do things when compared to actually talking to people.

This means that most tools aren’t really what we want them to be.

Lack of quick help

Though time difference is a factor here, it’s much more than that. If you have a colleague sitting next to you, you can always ask for help (unless you work in a toxic workplace, of course). Converting those Excel rows to columns won’t take more than a minute.

If you’re working alone, it’s an exponentially lengthy process. You either have to Google it or you have to wait for your colleague to answer. You never really get the full answer, so you have to have a conversation about it. Sometimes, there’s just no reply. So, you’ve wasted time waiting and now you have to spend more time looking it up.

That’s half an hour gone. Just to change a few rows into columns. Frustrating.

Overload of tools and software

For the longest time, Email was pretty much the only communication software.

Today, you have Slack, Teams, Meet, Zoom, Trello, Asana, Hangouts, GoToMeeting, BaseCamp, G-Suite — the list is endless.

Each of these tools was meant to save them and yet, we seem to seem to spend most of our time battling with these tools. Where’s all the saved time that we were promised?

The simple lack of face-to-face communication has launched us into an era where talking about work is half the work.

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Remote work communication tips

So, how do you solve all these problems? The fact is, some of these problems cannot be solved. I mean, if Zuckerburg can make the Metaverse work well, and if doesn’t keep recommending you to be friends with someone, yeah, sure.

But until then, there’s no way to get quick help, there’s no way to introduce body language into conversations, and there’s certainly no way to beat the time difference.

But that doesn’t mean that your life has to be terrible. Here are a few tips that’ll help you:

Clarity over everything

With the absence of shared physical spaces, it's our written words that do the talking. It's like sending smoke signals over a long distance - the clearer they are, the better they are understood.

The idea is to leave as little room for confusion as possible. It's not about fancy words or long sentences; it's about getting your point across simply and directly.

Think about the key message you want to convey. What's the most straightforward way to say it? That's your goal.

Use plain language, be explicit, and keep jargon to a minimum. It's like writing a recipe; the simpler and more specific it is, the better the dish turns out.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you write pages upon pages. You have to respect the recipient’s time.

Whether it's an email, a chat message, or a comment on a shared document, remember to be clear. It's like packing for a trip – take what's necessary and keep it organized. This way, your communication will not only be effective but also appreciated by your team.

Use the right tools:

Anything that needs to be documented should go in an email.

Quick clarifications or questions should go in Slack and other instant messaging apps.

If you’re presenting something, use video calls. This is as close to physical meetings as you can get. If people can see you, they can understand you better.

If the topic of conversation is more about a subject or an idea, go with audio calls. It’s about getting people’s opinions and views. Audio calls will allow you to focus on the content more.

Obviously, there are exceptions to this but in general, this is the way to go. If you choose your tools right, you’ll get the best possible results.

Don’t hate video calls:

Yes, sometimes video calls are absolutely unnecessary. Yes, some people don’t get it. And yes, it really is very annoying.

But there are times when video calls are fantastically useful.

Whether it's a team meeting, a brainstorming session, or a one-on-one discussion, switching on the camera can make a world of difference. You can read the room better, gauge reactions in real-time, and engage in more effective dialogue. It's like gathering around a virtual water cooler, sharing ideas and insights as if you were in the same room.

At least, it’s the closest you can get to that.

Respect time zones

You wouldn’t knock on someone’s door at 4 AM unless it was an emergency. That’s all you really need to know.

Scheduling calls outside people’s working hours is a good way to brew up an office storm. Yes, everyone’s willing to make an exception every now and then. But remember that they’re exceptions, not the rule.

Not disturbing people outside their working hours isn’t just about being considerate, it’s just about being decent. When you respect people’s work hours, you’re acknowledging their personal time. It's about fostering a culture of respect and empathy in your remote team.

While it may sound like corporate gibberish, these things do matter in the long run.

Set boundaries

If you read the previous section and immediately thought of someone, you know why setting boundaries is so important.

Being on the receiving end of someone’s insensitivity isn’t great but in the workplace, there are things that you can actively do about it.

Have a start and end time for your workday, and stick to it. It's like keeping work in its dedicated 'room', not letting it wander into the rest of your house.

Now, communicate this to your team very clearly. There are people who will test it but if you stick to your boundaries, they’ll stop annoying you eventually. Yes, it takes some time but once they get the message, you won’t be bothered anymore.

Try and be as responsive as you can

Remote work communication, more than anything, is about having a certain degree of empathy.

Your colleagues, just like you, don’t have someone to turn to for instant help. So, it’s quite normal for juniors, peers, bosses, and subordinates to ask questions. In fact, it’s quite common for them to ask the same questions multiple times.

Remember, if you were in an office, they’d draw information from your body language and tone of voice. You aren’t in an office and they cannot draw conclusions.

So, try and be reasonably accommodating. Be responsive.

There’s nothing worse than asking someone for help and then desperately waiting for them to just reply.

If you’re very busy and haven’t seen the message, that’s fine, of course. But if you do see the message, at least try to convey that you’re busy and they’ll have to wait. This will allow them to see if they can find help elsewhere. Being responsive is a sure way to become the team’s favorite.

Practice active listening:

Active listening sounds like a made-up phrase that a marketing executive uses. It’s really not, though, especially not when it comes to remote work.

Active listening means that when someone is talking, they have your full, undivided attention. It means that you mute everything else and concentrate entirely on what the speaker is saying. It’s about going out of your way to pay very close attention to every single word that’s being said.

It’s not just about keeping really quiet, either. Ask questions, give feedback, or at least, acknowledge what the speaker is saying.

If you don’t pay attention in an office, you can ask loads of people. When working remotely, you can’t. Well, you can but there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive an answer quickly. And if you don’t have the full picture, the decisions that you take can actually be detrimental.

As corny as the term sounds, active listening is one of the most important skills for any remote worker.

Don’t forget the small talk

Remote work can feel isolating. It’s a real effect.

Most jobs are eight hours a day and for eight hours a day, remote workers have little to no contact with any other humans. If you live with your family or friends or partners, it’s better, of course. But there are tons of people who live alone.

Even for those living with others, remote work can be very isolating.

So, when you have some time, make sure you engage in some small talk. Little conversations go a long way. In a world where most human work interactions are reduced to emails and chats, small talk humanizes the workplace.

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In remote teams, communication is one of the most important factors. It can genuinely decide whether a team succeeds or not.

So, make sure you communicate effectively. It not only helps with work, but it’ll also make you super popular in your team.

In the meantime, if you’re looking to transition to remote working, check out Simple Job Listings. We only list verified remote jobs. Most of these pay really well and you’ll find a wide variety of jobs, ranging from writing and marketing to cloud engineering roles.

Visit Simple Job Listings and find amazing remote jobs. Good luck!

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