Consistent communication is essential in any workplace, but it becomes even more critical in remote work. In a remote work environment, team members are physically separated from one another, making it challenging to communicate effectively and efficiently.
- Knowing what everyone is working on can be challenging in a remote work setup. That is when consistent communication comes into play. It confirms everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.
- Moreover, consistent communication helps to build trust between team members. "Team members who communicate regularly work more efficiently".
- Consistent communication ensures that everyone has the information they need and understands what is expected of them.
- Last but not least, when team members communicate regularly, they can share information quickly and easily, which helps to keep projects moving forward.
So increased consistent communication is all good. Right?
Working remotely over the past few years has increased productivity and communication for many businesses. For some people, the volume of emails, messages, phone calls, and meeting requests has substantially grown. In an attempt to make up for the lack of face-to-face interaction with an increased frequency of communication, a.k.a overcommunication, we are pushing ourselves closer to burnout than ever.
So is there a solution to it? Can overcommunication be balanced out? What about under-communication? Many facets of communication in the remote work scenario are yet to be explored.
Is it possible to overcommunicate or under-communicate?
Yes, it is possible to overcommunicate or under-communicate depending on the situation and the context of the communication. In fact, over-communication and under-communication are two opposite ends of the communication spectrum, and both can be problematic in different ways.
"Under-communicating" refers to not providing enough information or not communicating frequently enough.
Overcommunication refers to the excessive or unnecessary amount of communication that occurs in a particular situation.
It can result in misunderstandings, missed deadlines, and low productivity.
On the other hand, "over-communicating" can also be a problem, as it may lead to information overload, distraction, and a decrease in productivity.
For example, if a manager fails to communicate clear expectations or provide regular feedback to their remote team, it may lead to confusion or lack of direction.
For instance, sending excessive emails or messages throughout the day may distract team members from their work and make it difficult for them to focus on important tasks.
In summary, under-communication can lead to confusion and lack of direction, while over-communication can result in information overload and decreased productivity. The key is to create a balance between the two and ensure that communication is clear, concise, and frequent enough to keep everyone informed and on the same page without becoming overwhelming.
Tips to avoid overcommunicating
1. Restrict the number of virtual meetings
Virtual meetings is a valuable solution to the current problem of staying connected, but their extraordinary accessibility makes them ripe for misuse. The condition known as "Zoom burnout" is growing more prevalent, and experts contend that spending too much time online can lead to unneeded stress. Virtual meetings can be effective if you keep them to the bare minimum and generally use them with more significant thinking and planning.
Some alternatives you can consider to prevent overcommunication
- Recordings: Recording a video or audio message can be an excellent way to communicate information that doesn't require immediate discussion. This allows your coworkers to watch or listen to the message at a convenient time.
- Collaborative documents: Collaborative documents like Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365 can be used to share information and collaborate on projects without the need for virtual meetings.
- Chatbots: Chatbots can be used to automate responses to common questions or requests, reducing the need for virtual meetings.
2. Be present-present during a meeting
When it is necessary to communicate, make the interaction as fulfilling and respectful as possible. Maintain a professional attitude and abstain from eating or engaging in any other distracting activity. Have a clear agenda and give attendees your complete focus. Engage in one excellent and fulfilling conversation rather than overcommunicating time and again.
Here is what you need to do
- Eliminate distractions: Find a quiet, distraction-free place to communicate. Turn off irrelevant notifications on your phone or computer, close unnecessary tabs, and minimize any other potential distractions.
- Use video: Use video whenever possible to help you feel more engaged and present during virtual meetings. This can also help build better connections with your team members.
- Practice active listening: Listen actively to what others are saying and give them your full attention. Avoid multitasking or thinking about other tasks while communicating.
- Be engaged: Participate actively in virtual meetings by asking questions, providing feedback, and engaging in discussions. This will help you feel more present and contribute to the success of the meeting.
3. Set boundaries and guidelines
Setting guidelines for how, when, and which communication technologies to utilize when working in virtual teams is crucial for remote workers. When to use Teams? What circumstances require an email? What situations call for the scheduling of an ad hoc meeting?
For remote workers, it's crucial to establish rules around this.
Steps you can take to avoid overcommunication at work
- Please define your work hours: Define your work hours and communicate them clearly with your team members. This will help them know when they can expect to communicate with you.
- Use a separate workspace: Create a dedicated workspace in your home, if possible. This will help you separate work from personal life and reduce the need for communication outside of work hours.
- Turn off notifications: Turn off notifications on your phone or computer outside of work hours. This will help you disconnect from work and focus on personal time.
- Communicate clearly: Communicate your boundaries clearly with your team members. Let them know when you are available to communicate and when you are not.
- Use out-of-office messages: Use out-of-office messages or automatic replies to let people know when you are not available to communicate. This will help manage expectations and reduce the need for immediate responses.
- Respect others' boundaries: Respect the boundaries of your team members. Avoid sending messages or emails outside their working hours and avoid expecting an immediate response.
4. Use common communication tools
Its goal is to prevent any potential misinterpretation during working hours by keeping everyone interested and communicating efficiently. There are countless ways to communicate. Pick the one that is most user-friendly and culturally appropriate. To communicate with your teams, use the usual and common tools. Efficiency is difficult to achieve if your coworkers connect using multiple tools. Make sure the entire team uses software that is known to all.
Tools that you can use for proper communication
- Email: Email is a common communication tool used in remote work. It's helpful in communicating non-urgent messages, sharing files, and providing updates.
- Messaging apps: Messaging apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Chat are great for quick and informal communication. They allow team members to communicate in real-time and collaborate effectively.
- Video conferencing tools: Video conferencing tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet are essential for virtual meetings, presentations, and brainstorming sessions.
- Project management tools: Various project management tools like Asana, Trello, or Basecamp can help teams stay organized and communicate effectively without the need for constant communication.
- Collaborative documents: Collaborative documents like Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365, or Dropbox Paper can be used to share information and collaborate on projects without constant communication.
By using these common communication tools, you can streamline communication without overwhelming your other team members with constant communication. As a remote team manager, it's essential to establish clear communication protocols to ensure everyone knows when and how to communicate effectively.
5. Sometimes asynchronous communication is better
Asynchronous communication, such as email or messaging apps, allows people to communicate without needing an immediate response. This can help reduce the need for constant communication.
Asynchronous communication is a hit when it comes to avoiding overcommunication at work as;
- It allows you to communicate on your own time, which means you can work more flexibly and have more control over your work-life balance.
- It helps to reduce interruptions and distractions, which are significant sources of stress and disrupted workflow.
- It allows you to have time to think about your responses and provide more thoughtful and thorough communication. This leads to better decision-making and problem-solving.
- Overcommunication can lead to stress and burnout, especially when workers feel they have to respond to messages immediately. Asynchronous communication reduces the pressure to respond quickly, which can help to reduce stress levels and prevent burnout.
6. Avoid micromanaging
If you're a remote team manager, micromanagement is a bad idea. Micromanagement can lead to increased stress and reduced job satisfaction for your remote team workers. It can also lead to communication overload and reduced productivity, as team members may hesitate to make decisions or take the initiative without their manager's input.
Here are some ways to avoid micromanaging and reduce overcommunication in remote work:
- Trust your team members: Trust your team members to do their work independently and without constant supervision. This will reduce the need for frequent check-ins and updates.
- Focus on results, not process: Rather than focusing on how your team members complete tasks, concentrate on the results they produce. This will give your team members more freedom to work in a way that can help reduce communication overload.
- Provide feedback and support: Regularly provide input and support to your team members, but do not micromanage their every move. Encourage open communication, and be available to answer questions or provide guidance as needed.
- Promote autonomy: Provide your team members with enough independence to make decisions and take the initiative. This will encourage creativity and innovation and reduce the need for micro-managing.
7. Be concise
When sending messages, aim to be as concise as possible to avoid sending unnecessary information that can lead to further communication.
Some tips to have concise communications
- Plan: Take a moment to plan your message before communicating, considering the key points you want to convey and any questions or concerns the other person may have.
- Use clear and simple language: Avoid using complex language or technical jargon that may confuse your audience. Use clear and simple language that is easy to understand.
- Be direct: Get straight to the point and avoid unnecessary pleasantries or small talk. This will help you to convey your message quickly and effectively.
- Avoid repetition: Don't repeat yourself unnecessarily. If you've already made a point or answered a question, move on to the next topic.
- Use bullet points or lists: Use bullet points or lists to break up long messages and highlight key points. This can help to make your communication more concise and easier to digest.
- Emphasize action items: When communicating with your team, emphasize action items and the next steps. This will help to reduce unnecessary back-and-forth communication and keep everyone on track.
- Use technology in a fruitful way: Take advantage of technology to communicate more efficiently. For example, use chat or messaging apps for quick questions or updates, and reserve longer-form communication for email or video calls.
The do’s and don’ts of a balanced communication
Maintaining balanced communication in remote work requires a mix of communication skills, technology, and habits. Here are some do's and don'ts to help you maintain balanced communication in remote work:
Use various communication channels such as chat, video conferencing, email, and project management tools. Each tool has its strengths, and using a mix of tools can help you stay connected and productive.
Avoid overcommunication by being clear about the purpose of your message and using the appropriate communication channel. Don't send unnecessary messages or repeat information that has already been communicated.
Schedule regular check-ins with your team to keep everyone informed and updated. These check-ins can be daily stand-ups, weekly meetings, or monthly reviews.
Don't ignore your colleagues' messages or emails. Respond to messages on time, even if it's just to acknowledge receipt.
Be clear and concise in your messages to avoid confusion or misinterpretation. Use bullet points, headings, and summaries to help your message stand out.
Don't multitask during video or phone meetings. Give your full attention to the meeting and avoid distractions like emails or chat messages.
Listen actively to your colleagues to understand their perspectives and needs. Paraphrase what they say to show that you are listening and clarify misunderstandings.
Don't rely too heavily on chat to communicate with your colleagues. Use video or phone calls for more complex discussions or to build relationships.
Be aware of the time zones of your colleagues and schedule meetings at a convenient time for everyone. Use time zone converters to avoid confusion.
Take breaks to avoid burnout and to recharge. Use this time to get away from your screen, stretch, or take a walk.