Working from home has become the norm for most of the world in recent times. Be it just a couple of days a week so that you can take care of the kids or be it because the global villain COVID-19 has forced you into closing yourself indoors, the pros and cons of working from home (WFH) have been a point of discussion for years.
So, while you work from home, how do you ensure your productivity stays the same (if not better, as in my case)? How do you make sure that your team knows what you are up to? And most importantly, how do you communicate effectively, and efficiently, with your team during these times?
While there is no one fit for all solution to this and the strategies do vary based on your industry, there are certain strategies you can employ to ensure that your team’s communication remains relevant and effective.
1. Build a daily team work-schedule
Be it on a shared Google sheet, on the team calendar or any other way that works for everyone, chart out the complete daily schedule of each member in the team.
This not only helps understand who is working on what and makes it easier for the manager to track the work, but also makes it easier for everyone in the team to know what their colleague is working on. This becomes all the more important when multiple people might be working on different sections of the same project.
Obviously, the extent of details to be added would depend on the type of work and the size of the team, but as long as there is a general understanding of how the schedule needs to look like, it works perfectly in setting up expectations and communicating your work to the team.
2. Group chat for the win
There might be quick questions that might require one-word answers and there would be quick announcements like “Am off to lunch, see you in 30”.
While in the usual office environment one could just shout it out over the desk, while working from home, group chats act as your medium for this.
Group chats are also beneficial when there is a quick discussion or a quicker feedback needed but it’s too menial for a video call or even an email. After all, the goal of communication is to communicate effectively and efficiently. And as long as that happens, the mediums don’t count much.
3. Email when it’s worth an email
While working from home, or remotely, there are some people who email their managers every hour to showcase they are working ‘productively’. While there are some others, who write long and tedious emails which could be mistaken for research papers.
In whichever category you fall into (if you do), stop right there.
The whole process of writing an email, and then for the receiver to respond to it, is not worth the amount of time spent if there is a simpler alternative to it.
Maybe a phone call could help in taking the final decision, whereas a 25 email long thread might be needed to do the same over emails.
Maybe 5 minutes on a group chat might suffice to get feedback, instead of Cc’ing all 19 of your colleagues in.
Whichever is the most efficient medium, follow that. Do not feel obliged to put every dot and cross in an email.
4. Have F2F (Face to Face) video meetings
The best mode of communication is in person and face to face. While working from home might hold restrictions to that, the next best solution is to hold a meeting on video calls.
And with today’s technologies, broadband connectivity and multiscreen world, it has become easier to attend such meetings anytime and anywhere.
Hold at least weekly meetings. This makes sure that everyone still retains the feeling of being part of the team; something that can be easily lost when confined in the comforts of one’s household.
5. Use collaboration tools
This is definitely a no-brainer.
Be it Google Docs to edit documents together, Slack for easier team communication, Trello to keep a track on the progress of to-dos or even Podio for complete project collaboration, this is the age of collaborative tools.
While such tools hold value when you’re at work too, they become all the more important when working from home/remote.
6. Don’t forget to call
While most of the strategies above rely on the power of the written word, never underestimate what a few minutes on the phone with a team-mate could do in bettering the workplace communication.
Before you start typing that long email or before you start putting in hundreds of comments on that shared Google sheet, just hold yourself back and think. Can I save time for myself and everyone in the team if I just pick up the phone and talk to the person? If the answer is yes, almost always go ahead with that.
After all, a phone call is always more personal and likable than an email.
Probably the only scenario when I wouldn’t recommend it is if the person is your senior manager and you know they are in a crisis meeting, or maybe when you know the other person is down with a sore throat and wouldn’t prefer to speak. But am sure you already know that.
7. Have virtual casual hangouts
Amidst all this work of efficiency, never forget that one major thing you miss out on while working from home is the camaraderie and relationship building with your colleagues.
While at work, one would mostly have lunch together or have walking meetings where casual talks would definitely happen.
Make sure you do not miss out on the human part of the interaction. Maybe have 10-minute end-of-the-day closure video meetings. Or maybe even get together on a video call on Friday 4 pm and have drinks together, clinking your glasses to your computer screens.
Either way, it’s not what you do, but how you do it that counts.
I hope this does summarize for you the basic strategies for communicating effectively with your team while working from home. If you think there are more additions that would add value to this list, please feel free to comment below.
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Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash