Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, working from home was a trend that was starting to take off. Working from home has certainly increased the use of instant messaging (IM) and email communications, but are you an effective communicator now that you're not in the office to discuss in person?
Some people may not be adapting well to the increased demand of written communications that comes with working from home. Their emails are not as clear or as informative as they could be, which requires multiple questions and replies. So, we decided to share our list of effective communication standards we use here at HawkPoint.
Effective email communications should...
Use subject lines to inform the reader.
Don't let the subject line go to waste. Think of it like a headline of a news article. It should summarize what the email is about in a few words. This will help to prepare readers for the content, as well as make it much easier to find later if they need to reference it.
Convey a clear message.
Set aside the sarcasm, the jokes, the comment about the weather and get to the point. Without your facial cues and verbal tone, some comments can be off-putting or confusing, and with the increase in messages we're getting, it's important to be concise.
Include all the need-to-knows.
It's frustrating when email doesn't include all the obvious details or answers. Read the email before sending and ask yourself what questions you would have if you received this message. Are they all answered? If you don't know the answer to a question you know will be asked, then say that. And follow-up when you do find out.
How much content are you putting into one email? Is it all related to the same topic you started out with? No one wants to read a novel. If the email is getting long, does it make more sense to just have a meeting? Too much content can be hard to process. If the message is technical or requires a lot of explanation, then it may be best to schedule time for a meeting.
But, can you shorten the message? How many extra words, details and comments did you include? Stick the facts, Jack. Take the time to read the email before you send it and remove any unnecessary comments or words. Writing short communications is not easy, but overtime becomes easier.
Clearly define the next steps, required actions and timelines.
This is especially important if there are multiple people receiving the email. Who needs to take what action? Use @ symbols to tag people, or bold their names to make it easier for them to see it.
Use text formatting to your advantage. Bulleted lists are easy to scan and absorb content quickly. Bold important dates, times, facts or names to draw attention to those details.
Instant messaging with coworkers
Office IM is not a new concept, but not everyone is has been utilizing this communication tool. But, with the instant shift to work from home, office chat use is on the rise as it offers a convenient, quick way to connect with coworkers.
There seems to be some unwritten rules about the casual nature of chatting through instant message programs like Microsoft Teams and OMessenger. While exact expectations may vary by company, culture and possibly even person, a relaxed communication style is generally accepted on IM. This may include the use of emojis, GIFs, abbreviations and a callous disregard for proper grammar and sentence structure. And that's OK. But, this may be pretty weird for anyone new to the platform or wondering what a GIF even is.
Instant messages are perfect for quick questions, checking in or requesting a status update. They are perfect for times when you want a short, instant conversation without the formality of an email. Could you make a quick call? Sure, but using IM also lets you multitask a little more than a phone or video call.
An instant message does interrupt someone, and imply that a reply needs to be sent instantly, but it is less interrupting than a phone or video call, and certainly less interrupting than someone walking over to your desk to ask a question. When an IM pops up, you have the ability to finish your train of thought before opening the box. Something a ringing telephone doesn't give you.
Effective instant messages are short, simple and direct. You may not need to capitalize the first letter of every sentence, but it still needs to be understandable. It shouldn't be used for meaningless banter or non-work-related conversations.
Make time for video calls
It's OK to have a meeting or a call with a coworker to discuss projects, ask questions and have a conversation. Sometimes the content justifies live conversations and good ol' fashion talking it through.
Take time to socialize.
Do you miss the social aspect of the office? Have a quick 15 minute social call with your team. This may seem like a waste of time, but when teleworking, it is a great way to stay connected and can help foster a better working relationship with your remote teammates.