One of the most important parts of working from home is figuring out how to maximize ways to communicate remotely. Instead of walking across the office or yelling to the next cubicle, you need more creative ways to get the answers you need from coworkers, bosses, and clients.
Here are some of the important ways to communicate remotely, as well as the best contexts for their use. Make sure you have the technology to support all the methods you need.
Instant messages inside your office
If your office uses an instant messenger frequently, it can be one of the best ways to feel like you are right next to your boss or coworkers. Instant message, however, isn’t perfect for everything: it is rarely a professional choice for working with clients unless your clients are in constant collaboration with you and have instigated instant messaging.
It is also best for single questions or comments, nothing that requires extensive background or complex responses. “Does the client prefer all of the letters in their name to be capitalized?” works well. “Tell me the seven steps we’ve agreed on for this project” might be less well-received.
Video chat software
When you want to get or give feedback, consider using video chat software. This is the closest you will come to a face-to-face meeting without leaving your work-from-home set-up, and it can be a good way to deliver complex or tone-dependent information. Your positive facial expressions and pleasant tone of voice can go a long way if you need to give feedback or critique, and you will also be able to gauge the reaction of the person or people you are speaking with.
That being said, make sure your background and outfit are business-ready when you video chat; while usually, it doesn’t matter what you wear to work from home, you want to give a professional image if you’ll be on someone else’s screen!
Emails all day long
As a remote worker, you will probably turn to email often. It is a great avenue if you need to convey complicated information that the reader may want to refer back to. It’s also a great option if you don’t need an answer right this minute (many people respond to email in batches and might not look at your message for a day or two).
Email is a good way to collaborate on written projects, as are collaboration tools like Google Drive, but once your email is longer than one “screen” worth of text, it might be worth summarizing and then making a phone call. Long emails tend to make people say “I’ll read this and deal with it later,” which can translate to “never” far too easily!
One of the best “in-between” communication methods is a regular old phone call. Use these guidelines to figure out when to default to a phone call:
- If your communication is too response-dependent for an email
- If your message has too many parts for an instant message
- If you need to talk now as opposed to scheduling a formal video chat
A phone call is still the most common method of getting answers quickly, and while email is slowly taking over for many less urgent requests, a phone call is a great, pleasant way to get the answer you need.