Dec 9 2020 Remote Working Tips: How to Communicate Fluidly in the New Era

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven many companies to shift to remote work, causing a significant change in Japan’s way of working.

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven many companies to shift to remote work, causing a significant change in Japan’s way of working

The responses of 8000 employees from a survey conducted by Adecco to the emergency measures adopted during the pandemic has certainly been insightful. Over 50% of those polled in the survey said their experience of remote work had been positive – a figure that was broadly consistent across Europe, the US and Australia, with only Japan showing less enthusiasm.

Amidst a plethora of issues raised by employees while working from home, one key concern remains – Communication

Everybody knows that communication within a business is the key to success. Whether you’re hosting a meeting, going through sales reports, emailing or on the phone to clients or reporting the status of a project to your boss, communication is at the forefront of everything that you’ll do.

However, things get a lot more difficult when you are working with employees located around the world. Even with the presence of advanced communication technology, such as instant messaging services and video conferencing platforms, it’s vital that you master the art of communicating with these remote workers so that your business can succeed.

Differences in working at an office compared to working in a remote setting with the people coming from diverse cultural backgrounds

One of the major advantages of working on-site is spending time with your coworkers, getting to know each other, and learning more about their work habits. For team leaders, this setting allows them to manage their employees with ease. However, this won’t be the case when working with a remote team.

  • When faced with particular changes in the work setting, leaders would have to modify the way they work. For example, managers need to deal with new unique challenges when leading a remote instead of an office team. According to a recent survey by the training company VitalSmarts, 20% of leaders are unprepared or very unprepared to lead their remote team.
  • Companies are facing different kinds of difficulties when it comes to working remotely like lacking daily non-verbal communication that people would normally have in person.
  • When we look at team building aspects, remote workplaces are lacking the daily conversations that would normally build rapport and camaraderie between the people. This needs to be maintained as its absence can lead to trust issues and a decrease in productivity.
  • Within a telecommuting team, there are usually people from diverse time zones. It is the job for the manager of such a team to schedule team meetings and other calls during periods that work for every team member, following something known as “time fairness”. 


How to tackle misunderstandings that can happen over remote conversations

Think about the information you can glean just from the seating arrangement in a physical conference room — who sits next to whom, who’s at the head of the table, who has put a little extra distance between themself and their neighbor. All those cues are missing in a typical teleconference. As a result, even the simplest of things can be misinterpreted. With a few tips and anecdotes, you can avoid or at least try to steer clear of such situations.

  • Set rules for standardized communication – Leaders should provide a “meta communication” of basic guidelines, such as how quickly people should respond to emails and what media should be used for which purposes (for instance, all team meetings will take place through videoconferencing).
  • Say more than you need – Virtual teams often lack contextual cues such that the other person misunderstands what we’re trying to say. This further amplifies the need to spell out instructions and communicate clearly.
  • Use positive language for communication – we all tend to prefer a certain “language” for communication at work. Some people are more quantitative (preferring raw numerical data) while others are more visual (favoring figures and graphs). For others, storytelling and anecdotes are best. Managers should encourage teams to express such preferences at the start of a virtual project. 


Additional tips to avoid miscommunication when the standard practices might not be working:

  • HR representatives/managers should have regular communication training or diversity training to deal with these problems before they happen.
  • Having open doors for suggestions always has a better impact on employees’ mindset rather than making them feel isolated.
  • Don’t just rely on having conversations with emails and texts but instead have zoom meetings or using any similar video conferencing tools where people can see each other and hear each other’s voices. This creates better bonding between the team members and will give them a better understanding of their coworkers’ behaviours and subsequently a better relationship between them.
  • Having non-work-related communications and video chats whenever we can helps us create the requisite human connection which often goes amiss in a typical remote work setting.
  • Always reach out to others if you are not feeling okay or homesick. Reaching out to people or asking for help doesn’t make you weak, rather it makes you stronger knowing that there might be other people who are in the similar situation as you are.

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