From “received” to “replied” - A Guide on Effective Workplace Communication

From “received” to “replied” - A Guide on Effective Workplace Communication

The Faba Team

Published on May 24, 2022

From “received” to “replied” - A Guide on Effective Workplace Communication

Workplace communication does not only exist in the form of daily water-cooler conversations. It is about delivering and receiving information across multiple platforms. Idea brainstorming, Friday catch-ups, and even goal-setting hour-long meetings are all forms of workplace communication.

Workplace communication plays one of the most crucial roles in the thriving of every business. And as our current working environment has shifted due to recent events, it’s time we take a look and redefine what contributes to the effectiveness of workplace communication.

Workplace communication is even more important than ever before

How the form of workplace communication has shifted

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant changes to work and workplace communication across industries. And as more and more companies started transitioning their business from in-person to virtual, so does workplace communication.

With remote work now becoming the new normal, organizations now focus more on managing virtual workplace communication via the use of communication tools.

The importance of effective workplace communication

Communicating effectively is a critical aspect of getting any job done, whether it occurs in-person or virtually, and is part of the internal communications efforts within an organization.

Effective communication is like an unblocked two-way street, where both the sending and receiving lanes are smoothly operated, regardless of the management levels. Your employees should feel understood and heard by management and are comfortable communicating with their supervisors as much as the higher-ups are.

Here are several benefits that effective workplace communication provides:

  • Reduced conflicts
  • Increased employee engagement
  • Increased innovation and productivity
  • Healthy workplace culture
  • Clear direction for employees
  • Boosted job satisfaction
  • Strengthened team building

From “received” to “replied”, here’s a guide on effective remote communication

The challenges of remote communication

Remote teams face communications challenges consistently. As more and more of our interactions happen digitally, we will continue to experience new forms of miscommunication and misunderstanding.

What’s the one thing that is missing from our texts, emails, google meetings, and other digital communications? Body language. That’s why remote teams demand new collaboration skills.

Even our closest friends become perplexed when the tone of a text or the formality of an email is left open to interpretation, so what does that make our colleagues? These misunderstandings cause anxiety, which can negatively impact morale, engagement, productivity, and innovation at the workplace.

Remote communication can distort the normal pace of our conversations. The delay between our messages can often postpone or hide emotional reactions to our comments. How many times have you written an email and, right after hitting send, felt concerned about how it would land?

While we may have grown accustomed to different forms of asynchronous interactions, they might counter our established social standards. We can become distracted, second-guess ourselves, or even become upset with our employees if we don't get an immediate response.

That is why remote teams have to find new and better ways to operate.

How can you tackle those challenges?

Bridge the distance in remote collaboration

There are three kinds of distance when it comes to working remotely.

  • physical: time and place
  • operational: team size, bandwidth, and skill levels
  • affinity: values, trust, and interdependency

The best way to drive your team performance is to reduce these types of distances at your best, and the easiest one to tackle is the affinity distance.

Without consistent face-to-face interaction and teamwork to build trust, remote employees may feel less like a part of the team, and more like a person interacting with email avatars.

So instead of hopping on that regular call, turn on your camera. Video calls are a much better vehicle for establishing mutual understanding and creating empathy than emails and voice calls.

Here are some of the best practices when it comes to remote communication:

Don’t confuse brief communications with clear communications

In our efforts to be more efficient, we sometimes communicate using fewer words. But that may end up with your teammates taking more time to fully understand what you mean. (and then misinterpret it anyway).

So don’t assume that others get your cues and shorthand. Be ultra-clear, no matter what it takes. In fact, you can never be too clear, yet it is way easier to be less clear than you should.

Don’t bombard your team with messages

Do you tend to ask people if they got your previous messages? Do you often follow up on a task by multiple means? If you do so, I suggest it’s time to stop.

The medium you choose creates different demands on the time of the receiver. Using all of them for the same message is not only ineffective but also annoying to your co-workers.

Establish communication norms

New norms are required to establish clarity in communication, especially when it comes to remote working.

For example, our teams at FABA have a daily 5-min standup where everyone takes turns to briefly summarize what they did yesterday, their main goals for today, and flag any blocker that comes up, so the team can timely jump in and support.

Norms can also exist on an individual level, such as people’s preferred response time, writing style, and tone. For example, some individuals prefer short and quick messages, while others favor lengthy and detailed responses; people also differ in their preference and tolerance for humor and informality.

We are all unique, yet our consistency helps others predict what we will do, therefore helping them understand us – and we all gain from understanding. Establishing a clear personal etiquette and sticking to it regularly can make it easier for others.

Create intentional spaces for celebration

Creating virtual settings and rituals for socializing and celebrating can develop bonds and pave the way for future collaboration. Find ways to reduce the affinity gap.

Our team at FABA has the habit of creating new emojis on Slack using the memes from our own employees, and it always brings out a chuckle whenever the #random channel gets bombarded with different types of cheeky emojis.

You can develop team spaces for social engagement in your own special way. It matters less how you do it than if you do it at all.

We will continue to experience new forms of misinterpretation and misunderstanding as more and more of our interactions take place digitally. The answer will not be found in new technologies (although, no doubt, developers will keep trying to bridge that gap). In fact, the solution lies in building a skill set that reflects the demands of our digitally-driven age.