The COVID-19 pandemic caused millions of employees to work from home. While some have returned to full-time office work, many people are still working remotely or following a hybrid schedule. Despite the mass transition to remote work, communication remains a significant challenge amongst workers and using solid communication techniques has become vital.
According to the 2021 State of Remote Work by Buffer, communication is one of the biggest struggles with working remotely—higher on the list than distractions at home and staying motivated. Additionally, 41 percent of remote workers have changed how they communicate and collaborate now that they’re in a remote position.
My four communication techniques
Despite all the technology available to us, it’s not easy to communicate when your team members are across the state or country. Use these four communication techniques to connect with your team members more effectively.
Practice active listening
Listening is one of the hardest things for people to do. While you hear messages throughout the day, you are less likely to listen to what each person or communication channel has to say. Luckily, active listening is a simple process you can use, whether you’re on a voice call, talking in person or sending a chat message.
Here are five key active listening techniques to embrace:
- Pay attention: Look at the speaker if you’re in person or on a video call and stop mentally preparing what you’ll say next. Focus on what’s being said first and foremost and avoid distractions.
- Show that you’re listening: Let the speaker know you’re listening by nodding, smiling and making sure your posture is open and interested.
- Provide feedback: Start your responses with phrases like, “What I’m hearing is….” or “What do you mean when you say…?”
- Defer judgement: Give the speaker time to finish what they’re saying. Don’t interrupt them and instead, respect their chance to speak and share their perspective.
- Respond appropriately: Be candid and honest in your response, considering their perspective and opinion.
Develop a meeting recap policy
Office communication is more diverse than ever. Email messages, voice calls, chats, in-person meetings, and phone calls are all exchanged throughout the day. However, all of these communication forms can get muddled if team members can’t remember what was discussed and when. This is where your recap policy comes in.
A recap is a message sent over your project Topic in Hubgets or an email sent to employees after a meeting. It reviews the meeting agenda, highlights the decisions that were made, and includes a list of assignments or action items so everyone finishes on the same page.
Establish a policy within your company to send meeting recaps after each discussion. This will help you better track information and keep employees in the loop—even ones who missed it. Indeed created a meeting recap template that you can use to get started.
Create opportunities for the water cooler talk
The water cooler talk is polite chit-chat that occurs throughout the workday in an office. A colleague might recommend a new restaurant or ask their coworker about summer travel plans. These conversations are typically short, but they serve an important purpose, building camaraderie and breaking down barriers between teams. It sets a foundation for future collaboration and understanding.
Look for ways to create these opportunities among your remote team with these simple ideas:
- Create Hubgets Topics for non-work conversations, like music recommendations or local things to do. Here’s how we do it here, at 4PSA.
- Set aside five minutes during each meeting to get to know team members or ask about their weekends.
- Create a Friday Conversation Hour where employees can jump on a call and talk about their weekend plans and catch up personally.
- Create a Question of the Day thread where people share personal preferences, opinions and thoughts.
As a bonus, building personal connections can increase productivity company-wide because it helps employees to get to know one another, and therefore, work better together.
Rethink how you schedule meetings
If you want to save time and streamline communication, evaluate how you run meetings. According to a 2020 report by Doodle, the most popular meeting duration was 30 minutes and 15 minutes respectively. Fewer people are scheduling one-hour meetings, preferring instead to schedule short, single-topic discussions.
In addition to meeting time, evaluate who needs to be in each meeting. Doodle also found that the most common meeting sizes have four to six people, with larger meeting sizes becoming less common.
With these small communication techniques, you not only give back time to employees, but you also improve communication. Messages can get muddled when there are too many people on a call or too many topics being discussed.
Take steps to proactively improve communication
Most employees know how to communicate professionally. They can send well-formatted emails and respond to questions in a timely manner. However, when you focus on active listening, encourage personal connections among your team, and rethink the way meetings are held, communication becomes more than checking a box—it’s actually effective.
Use these communication techniques to help yourself and your team become better communicators, whether you’re heading back into the office or staying remote.