Working from home can be energizing for a day or two, but after a week the challenges start to set in.
How much should you be communicating with your manager? Do you need to set up video conferencing, or is messaging enough? And where exactly are you supposed to look when you’re FaceTiming someone, anyway?
You’re not alone. Transitioning from in-person interactions to at-home teamwork presents real challenges, especially when it comes to something many of us take for granted – good communication.
Luckily, for every new problem you have, there is a clear and effective solution. We’ve collected the top six ways to effectively communicate while working from home. You’ll be able to stay on top of your goals, and even join your coworkers in some much-needed camaraderie.
Plan Your Week
Take a moment and think about how often you interact with your team throughout the week. How much dedicated meeting time do you have? How many impromptu conversations next to your desk?
Come up with a rough estimate, whether it’s 2 hours or 10, and think about how best to spread it out over the week.
At the very least, schedule a regular video meeting with your entire team at the beginning of the week, and consider daily check-ins with your manager.
You don’t have to be constantly in contact with your team but scheduling regular meetings in advance will ensure that your sense of connection remains strong.
Choose the Right Tools
Maybe your company already has a set of remote work tools in place – if so, great. But it’s likely the tools you’re currently using were designed with in-office work in mind.
After a week of use, you should consider what’s working and what’s not.
Do you have a good instant messaging platform in place? Consider Slack, Google Hangouts or Skype. Giving new platforms a try for a week and then meeting to discuss their effectiveness doubles as a valuable team-building exercise.
The same goes for video conferencing – whether its Zoom or Skype, be sure that it’s easy to use and encourages regular and effective communication between colleagues.
At the office, it’s easy to strike up a conversation with coworkers at your desk, during lunch or over coffee.
It’s those informal conversations that build strong bonds between team members and create a sense of understanding and unity.
So, whether it’s setting up calls over your afternoon coffee, sending updates about your work-from-home set up, or just sending a good morning message to your colleagues, make a point of reaching out to others. You’ll be surprised how necessary it is in the coming days.
Learn the Do’s and Don’ts of Video Conferencing
While video calls have been with us for some time, not all of us are up to speed on our video etiquette.
The most important thing is to be patient and wait for your turn to speak. Keep your mic on mute when others are speaking and only share when it’s clear that others have finished expressing themselves.
Don’t worry too much about where you’re looking, but do try to spend most of the call looking and listening to others. Visibly fixing your hair or adjusting your outfit will not be appreciated.
If possible, call in an area where you won’t be interrupted by other housemates. And, if you’re looking for the best possible lighting, be sure that your light source is directed towards your face, not behind it.
For most companies, maintaining regular working hours will be key to a successful work-from-home transition.
But just because you’re working 9-to-5 doesn’t mean you should be taking calls and meetings that whole time.
Some companies have set up a “four-hour response” and a “no need to respond” window, encouraging employees to be online and open to calls from, say, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, while the rest of the work day is reserved for heads-down focused work.
Either way, make a point of saying hello to your colleagues in the morning and goodnight when you’re logging off. If you’re going to step out for an hour or so, let people know or set your status to “away” so you don’t return to a flurry of messages.
The clearer you can be about your availability, the less room there will be for miscommunication.
Schedule Social Time
Finally, setting up regular team-bonding events has never been more important.
Whether it’s a shared Friday evening drink over video chat or a regular call-in lunch hour, take the extra step to create dedicated time for everyone to unwind and enjoy each other’s company.
In stressful times, strong relationships between colleagues will be key to a company’s success. So don’t be afraid to mix your favourite drink or open that Friday beer and discuss the week with others.