Asking for help
Sometimes, I’ll ask a colleague if they’ll help me with a marketing-based task because I need their expert opinion. They always say yes, but may forget. This in itself is perfectly OK; we’re all human. It happens.
I often forget to do things, too. I either enthusiastically agree because it’ll win me brownie points, I realise I don’t actually want to do the task, so I put it off, maybe I don’t have time, or I simply get distracted.
I realised that, because we’re a remote company, it’s especially easy to let a task slip into the void. When the person asking for help doesn’t get it and a gap in communication follows, what are they to think? Expectations have been set, but not met.
Things get forgotten
We can safely assume no one has bad intentions. No one means to ignore something they said they would do for you. I think partly, when someone you don’t regularly work closely with asks you for help, it’s easy to forget because it’s outside of your typical remit. Combine that with the demands of your actual role and you may not have forgotten at all and just haven’t gotten round to it. Lots of potential scenarios.
Effective communication is an important tool in creating and maintaining strong relationships of any kind. This is especially true for remote working, which requires careful navigation.
I don’t think it’s about being instantly and constantly available, but I do think it would be difficult to ‘over-communicate’ in a remote scenario. For example, if I ask for help, get a yes and then something comes along to sidetrack that and the help is no longer available, the easiest way to resolve that is to tell me sooner rather than later. Then, I can take control over that task, assign it elsewhere or reprioritise it. It saves me from sweating over a looming deadline that, unbeknownst to me, I am not going to meet.
It also prevents my colleague from feeling awkward if they have my task dangling over their head and can’t/won’t get to it. Tech can really help soothe these communication issues.
Utilising technology to communicate effectively
As you know, there are lots of tools to facilitate communication in a remote-based world. They each facilitate a style of communication.
Face-to-face communication is usually best when you’re confused about something or need clarification. What might take you 20 minutes to write down and makes sense to you, may not be how the recipient reads it. Likely, it's going to be easily solved in a 5 minute (or less) chat. Don’t be afraid to ask for a meeting.
Video conferencing is great for collaboration and adds the personal element back into communication.
Project management and ticketing systems
We also have a ticketing system that aids our project management. Everyone knows where they're at, how much time has been spent on a task, how much is left, what the status is, how long it's been open and many other things that offer transparency within our projects. Clients also have access and can take part in the conversation. When the task is done, the ticket is closed. This is a system of communication strikingly for the work, rather than back and forth conversation.
We very rarely send internal emails here at Code Enigma. However, it is a great way to keep on top of an ongoing conversation. Combining a calendar helps, too. If we have client communications involving several members of the team, and it's not necessarily something that requires a ticket in the project management system, an email thread it handy to refer back to.
Email is OK for a conversation you might need to retain and refer back to later. But chat is a quick and easy way to get a response to shorter queries. It also keeps us connected throughout the day. It’s handy for quickly sharing links, documents (and memes). Typically, it’s more informal than an email so it gives us a chance for the office banter we all miss right now.
Five tips for promoting effective communication
There are usually always ways to improve how you communicate at work, especially now we’re working from home as standard.
Define the goals and set expectations
Whatever the task is, make sure the goal is clear and achievable. Outline what’s needed. Let everyone who needs to know these overarching things.
Ensure it’s understood
You may have done the above, but did the person understand it? Ask if it’s clear to avoid confusion. Welcome questions.
Use the right communication tool
Nothing worse than a meeting that could’ve been an email. But, sometimes the reverse is true. Equally, don’t ping someone on the chat asking them to get involved in something major and then find yourself stressed when they don’t come through because they said yes at the time and there was no follow-up. This is particularly important to remote-based teams.
Listen to what your peers are saying; it’s a two-way thing.
Effective communication in any team is critical to successful growth and there are easy ways to go about it if you’re mindful of some or all of the ideas I’ve mentioned here. Thanks!