Remote work is becoming more and more common — great news for those of us who like to work in our PJs!
With modern tech tools like Zoom and Slack, it's easier than ever for teams to collaborate even when they aren't in the same room. That said, we have to change our communication style to adapt to the new way of working.
For example, remote teams don't have the chance to enjoy casual conversation in the break room — so-called "watercooler" chat about personal life. These moments are huge relationship builders in the physical workplace that aren’t a luxury in the remote environment.
Creating virtual watercoolers: chatrooms where team members can talk about non-work-related topics. It's a way to build connection and camaraderie, both important for effective communication.
This is just one example of how to adapt your workplace communication to the remote work world. Below, we dive into some more actionable tips for clear communication. Let's get to it!
What is effective communication in a remote work environment?
What makes communication effective? If you communicate effectively, it means you convey opinions, information, and ideas to another person in a way they can understand.
This requires conveying your message clearly and with purpose. In return, the other person will "get" what you're saying without confusion or misunderstandings.
Here's a quick example to clarify: Let’s say you need a document — a contract that needs signing — delivered by the end of the day. It's urgent.
You tell the co-worker handling the document: "I need the XYZ contract signed and in my email box by the end of the workday, 5 pm" Your co-worker knows what it's about (XYZ contract), what to do with it (sign it), and how and when to deliver it (email, 5 pm same day).
Voila — effective communication strategies at work! No clarifying details needed.
Instead of the above, what if you simply told your co-worker this: "This is urgent. I need it ASAP." They'd have no idea what to do with the document. This would be an example of poor communication.
10 tips for communicating effectively on a remote team
So, what does better communication look like in the remote work environment? Read on to find out.
1. Keep your writing clear and concise
When writing, other people can't hear your tone of voice or read your body language (like seeing if you're making eye contact). It's important to be clear and concise. This allows the message recipient to focus on the core message. Try these tips to accomplish this:
- Write an outline that covers the key points of your content to help eliminate fluff
- Only include content with a purpose, such as defining an action for the recipient to take
- Reread your content before sending it off, ensuring it answers the Five W's: who, what, when, where, and why
2. Adopt new communication tools
Great remote communication starts with the right tools. It's also important that workers know how to use these technologies. If necessary, provide teams with training to ensure they have the important skills needed to use these tools confidently. Here are some options to try:
- Try Zoom or Google Meet for video conferencing, which can create a more intimate mode of remote communication, allowing you to interact face to face
- Asana is great for project management, allowing you to manage deliverables, assign tasks, and chat in project-specific workspaces
- Use Slack for direct messaging, which is faster and more convenient than email
OSlash is another tool that can support remote communication and collaboration. It takes complex URLs and transforms them into easy-to-remember tidbits that workers can share quickly and easily.
For example, you can take a URL like "https://docs.google.com/onboarding-document/" and change it to something like “o/onboarding.” That way, you can get to the destination page super fast.
Remote teams can improve information sharing and speed up work by sharing easy-to-remember shortcuts quickly and easily. OSlash also has a search function that works across multiple devices, so people can find their links fast. Learn more about OSlash and how it can help your team today.
3. Build camaraderie with a virtual “watercooler”
Communication becomes easier when co-workers have personal connections. For example, let’s say you have to ask a colleague to complete a tedious task urgently. You'll probably be less timid about making this request if you have a personal rapport with them.
In the past, colleagues could build trust by having coffee breaks or enjoying lunch together in the office, giving them a chance to establish bonds. In a remote environment, this isn't an option! What to do?
Set up a "watercooler" chat in your main remote communication tool (like Slack). Make this a "no work" zone with zero business communication. Instead, people can chat, share memes, and generally get to know one another better. Better relationships make for better teamwork.
4. Grow personal connections with fun
Simply establishing a virtual watercooler may not be enough to boost employee engagement. Try adding some structured fun to the mix. You might host virtual company events, for example. You can also try remote team building activities, like:
- Hosting a virtual book club
- Breaking a sweat in a digital workout session
- Playing online games together (there are even virtual escape rooms!)
5. Prioritize video calls
Video conferencing is more personal than remote communication formats like email or direct message. When possible, prioritize video calls. For example, you might schedule a daily "stand up" video call of just 10 minutes with your team, giving everyone a chance to check in. When recording remote interviews, or interviewing on-site team members by video, you'll get more out of the conversations if they're face-to-face. Follow these etiquette tips to ensure your video chats go smoothly:
- Stay muted when you aren't speaking. You can use nonverbal communication, nod, and smile to convey active listening.
- Wear work-appropriate clothing (yes, that includes wearing pants, even if you're only visible from the waist up)!
- Check your technology, like mic and video, beforehand
6. Watch your tone when communicating
Virtual communication makes it harder to read a person's tone because you can't rely on facial expressions. Go the extra mile to ensure your tone is being conveyed in a positive manner that won't offend someone. Try these tips for effective communication skills:
- Smiling when you're talking
- Focusing 100% (for example, don't multitask when you're on a video call)
- Being vocal when expressing gratitude ("Thank you for getting that document to me so quickly! I appreciate it.")
7. Set expectations from the start
Remote work tools like Slack and Zoom allow people to stay in communication 24/7. The only problem? This can leave people feeling overburdened. Set clear expectations for yourself and your colleagues.
- Define what types of communication channels you will use
- Set clear hours when you are reachable on these tools
- Stick to those hours, and set yourself to "away" or "do not disturb" otherwise
Recommended reading: Guide to being a good manager in a remote workplace
8. Mind your virtual body language
Similar to tone, you also have to make up for the lack of visible body language in virtual communication. For example, people can't see you smiling if you're communicating via a chat app. Make up for it by trying these tricks:
- Use emojis (assuming it's appropriate for your workplace environment)
- Ramp up your use of punctuation (for example, using exclamation marks to show enthusiasm)
- Try inserting workplace-appropriate memes into written messages (again, assuming this is considered acceptable in your company)
9. Provide encouragement
Maintaining positivity in remote work communications can go a long way in helping workers feel seen, appreciated, and rewarded. Remote work tools like Bonusly make it easy to give employees digital praise and incentives. You can also provide remote recognition and create a company culture that recognizes hard work with these initiatives:
- Digital gift cards
- A chatroom devoted specifically to celebrating wins
- Virtual courses or classes
- Getting meals or snack boxes delivered to employees' homes
- Digital subscriptions to things like Spotify
10. Ensure regular check-ins
One of the biggest dangers of remote work is that people get "lost" or don't feel heard or seen. This can leave people feeling unengaged, leaving them without motivation. As a result, productivity may take a hit. Yikes!
Avoid this nightmare scenario by scheduling regular check-ins with your team. This is especially important for managers. You might schedule a weekly or biweekly chat of just 10 minutes with each person — a chance to see how the person feels and to give and receive feedback.
Power productivity and make collaboration easier with OSlash shortcuts
Digital tools help remote teams work smarter and faster — and avoid miscommunication. But you can't just use these tools blindly. Implementing best practices like those described above will ensure good communication.
This is where OSlash shortcuts come in. OSlash eliminates confusion by transforming complex URLs into easy-to-remember, shareable shortcuts. Teams can share information quickly thanks to easy links like "o/invoice," "o/onboarding," "o/teams," and more.
Embrace a more convenient way of working. Find out what OSlash shortcuts can do for you.