Remote work comes with one big drawback: lack of professional development opportunities. Soft skills such as communication and leadership are more important than ever when working from home. And, with less access, finding mentors or building relationships by the water cooler seems a thing of the past. Misunderstandings and asynchronous communication (reading and replying to messages as schedules permit) can be routine. In order to realize the potential of remote work, we must break down, analyze, and establish firm-wide best communication practices.
At LIFE Intelligence, we are a fully-remote team. This is appropriate, because our main product is a DIY coaching app, so you can, quite literally, Develop It Yourself. Scattered around the world, our members daily navigate the complexities of the online-workplace. Currently working from home, I’m sending and receiving emails, text messages, phone calls, video chats, Slack messages, and even DMs and social media comments throughout the day. How does our team make sure conversations don’t get caught in the wires?
Trust and culture are some of the standing barriers in remote work. Misunderstandings and asynchronous communication (reading and replying to messages as schedules permit) can be routine. In order to realize the potential of remote work, we must break down, analyze, and establish firm-wide communication practices.
Teach communication norms to lessen any confusions or misunderstandings due to lack of face-to-face contact or cultural differences. At the LIFE app, our team hails from all over the United States and Europe. Sharing with one another our preferred method of communication and motivation has been crucial.
Just because you’re texting or virtually communicating doesn’t necessarily mean you can forget tone or simple grammar. Abruptness or sloppiness can be damaging professionally and enable misunderstandings. Whether doing a quick proofread or attempting to include warmth in your tone, think before you click send. Remote work is still work.
Without the powerful element of nonverbal cues, online communication can often be misunderstood. Communicate clearly and often even more working from home than you would in the office. Give both context and details—we often think we’re sharing more than we actually are. Don’t make others have to decipher your messages. When sharing instructions or information, keep multiple interpretations in mind. Imagine reading important messages from the reader’s perspective.
If you feel you may have misunderstood someone, ask for clarification. I have almost started lengthy projects with a completely incorrect understanding of instructions and goals. If I hadn’t reiterated my understanding of the assignment to clarify before starting, I would have wasted much of mine and others’ time. Working remotely means not having people pop into your office for a quick question - so, when you have them on the line, really listen and make sure you clarify all points.
Actively listen by summarizing what you understood or gathered from a message back to the sender to make sure you’re on the same page. This not only helps you better comprehend, but it shows that you care.
When a boss, coworker, or client gives you negative feedback, it’s easy to become defensive and shut it out. However, feedback is there to make you better—we can’t improve or become more self-aware without it. Remote work doesn't provide many professional development opportunities, so give feedback often, good or bad.
Practice proactively asking for feedback from bosses, colleagues or friends. This requires much humility and trust in others, but accepting and applying negative feedback can increase our self-confidence. Realize that giving feedback is equally awkward and difficult – so, appreciate when someone has the guts to be honest.
As a feedback-giver, make sure you’re not only giving negative or positive feedback. A survey showed that people prefer both—not just one or the other. Let people know what they’re doing well and how they can do even better.
Even if it’s to say you’re busy and will respond later. Delayed responses can communicate lack of care and disrupt flow. It can be frustrating and disheartening to send an important or time-pressured message to someone and wait around for a response. Responding as soon as you get a message, even if to say you’ll get back to them, can be another way to build a trusting and supportive culture in remote work environments.
Trust exercises, regular discussions, briefing, shared experiences, and collaborative communications increase trust and performance. This is important to establish from the get-go. It can be as simple as time set aside to talk about current projects or professional goals. Our team encourages this through weekly ‘teach-ins,’ where individuals have the opportunity to talk about his or her area of expertise. Get to know your fellow remote employees on a human level through relevant exercises or natural conversations.
Our mission at LIFE is to help your team develop a common language and common guidelines around everything from facial expressions on video calls to how to give and receive feedback. Unless all are trained the same way, we all have very diverse linguistic styles: some may be more combative, and think others are beating around the bush, while those individuals think they're just being polite! By providing a common leadership and management program to your team, you can speak to one other, not past one another.
Remote work allows us great freedom, but, with it comes great responsibility. Much of that responsibility falls to the company: putting in place the education, structure, and culture to help employees thrive. Digital employee development apps such as LIFE Intelligence can help you utilize this unique set-up to your advantage. Because resources such as LIFE are so much more affordable and asynchronous than conferences, seminars, or other leadership and communication trainings, LIFE can be purchased for an entire organization. This means that everyone, for the first time, can be trained in exactly the same way, learning the same cohesive set of skills. Since it takes two to communicate, communication trainings reserved only for top managers leads to people talking pas one another. One big benefit of digital trainings and their affordability is the ability for entire companies to gain a common "language." Best of all, employees around the globe can do so anytime, anywhere, without need for complicated scheduling, logistics, or time away from work.
If you’re interested in helping your team master communication – whether in-person or remote – download the LIFE Intelligence app for free and see for yourself why users call us "the most coherent leadership course I've seen."