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Remote work: How to Communicate while Working from Home!

20 March, 2020

Working from home can be a challenge, especially if you’re not used to it. But except issues with productivity and keeping focused, another obstacle is how you communicate with your colleagues. 

One that’s truly aware of all challenges is our DevOps engineer Rhys who has been working remotely for the past months. We asked him for his best advice!

Two major communication challenges

One of the first things you notice when you’re not meeting your colleagues face to face each day is that communication feels slower. Rhys gives us two reasons for this:

  1. Speaking is much faster than typing, and the text also loses a lot of nuances.
  2. It’s much easier to grab someone’s attention when you want it if you’re co-located.

Solution: Avoid un-necessary messages and include more detail

  • Each round trip of messaging to get what you need is slow and annoying for everyone. My solution for this is to not send messages as “Hi” or “Are you there?”. First, they aren’t helpful and the person on the other side of the screen needs to engage with you to find out what you want. Second, it’s possible that they are busy or temporarily away at that moment, so you might be waiting for a response, and at best that response is going to be “Hi” or “What’s up?”. Third, there’s the possibility that by the time you get a response, you might be busy yourself, so you can’t immediately reply.   

    A better approach would be to write your message in the same way that you would write an email. By including as much detail as possible of what you need from the person you are messaging, the chance is definitely higher that you also get the answer you wish.

    Example: “Hi! I need some helping to do X as I’m trying to get Y done. I’ve already tried Z, but I only get this result. Can you help?”

    This way, the person you are messaging has a much easier time replying, and you will get your answer quicker.

On issues with grabbing attention from co-workers

What about grabbing attention, then?

  • It’s so easy to go up to someone and interrupt them to get what you need!  When working remote, it’s a lot harder. And if you’re used to getting what you need when you want it, you will probably be quite frustrated at times.

    So, you could insist that everyone responds immediately to everybody all the time, but that’s not really very practical. It is better to treat each person like a “queue” or a helpdesk ticket. People have only so much attention and focus, so it’s best to let people be as “forced-interruption free” as possible. Obviously, there are times when urgency is needed, but we have phones and video calls for that! Patience is key.

Remote non-formal meetings

Thank you for the great advice, Rhys! 

We also have one bonus tip for you:
At Meetio, we believe it’s important to keep up with our usual routines even in times where many of us work remotely. For example, every afternoon we have a meet-up over Teams where we have a coffee and just talk for a bit. This is really great when you’re working from home and you don’t meet your colleagues daily. We really recommend it! 

Also, don’t forget to stand up and move your body once in a while (this also relevant for non-remote work!). When you stimulate your body you also stimulate your mind. Take walk!

Good luck with your remote work! Having struggles being productive? Read our other posts on the subject:

- How to be productive while working from home

- How to have efficient meetings in distributed teams

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