Research has shown that remote work is beneficial to workers and employers alike. For example, data from Flex Jobs shows that 60% of remote workers feel more productive in their home office than in a traditional workplace. In another research by Owl Labs, 74% of employees say they are less likely to leave their company if there is a provision for remote work, while 81% of employees say they will recommend that company to job candidates and prospects.
Despite these positive benefits, remote work has its challenges. Research by CoSo Cloud reveals that disconnection from in-office employees is a significant challenge.
In the State of Remote Work 2020, the data shows that 17% of remote workers believe that handling time zones and communicating with the team is their primary challenge. Another survey by Buffer shows that 20% of remote workers identify collaboration and communication as their greatest challenge.
Therefore, remote workers (employees and freelancers) must understand how to communicate better with clients, employers, and team members for maximum efficiency and productivity.
Communication essentials for remote employees
This article will look at two types of remote workers – employees and freelancers – and the essential communication tips that will improve efficiency and productivity.
Here are five communication essentials for remote employees.
Inform your team about changes in schedule
Transitioning from a work office to remote work will lead to some changes in your schedule. 32% of remote employees choose remote work because it allows them to have a flexible schedule.
However, when your schedule becomes flexible, it provides a challenge for your team members. It is no wonder then that collaboration and communicating with the team becomes a problem.
After settling down into your new lifestyle, the first step is to create a new schedule to accommodate your responsibilities (remote workers have schedule, the difference is in the flexibility). Let this new schedule reflects meeting times with your team members (unless you are the one setting the meeting times).
Consequently, ensure your team members have a copy of your work schedule so it will be easy to achieve collaboration.
For example, if you are the content writer, your editor needs to know your schedule so he or she can know when to expect your draft for editing and when to expect the revised content. The graphics designer (who will create the images and infographics) is another team member that needs to know your schedule for effective collaboration.
Furthermore, make sure you inform your team members when your schedule changes. While you enjoy your flexibility, ensure you also prioritize the effective functioning of the team. You can do this by communicating any changes in the schedule as soon as possible.
Schedule ‘catch up’ meetings
For remote employees, disconnecting from the in-house employees is a significant problem. This is a significant problem when transitioning to remote work. It is sad and painful to disconnect from people you shared every workday of your life with just some weeks/months ago.
Therefore, when you are creating a schedule, ensure you set time for these 'catch up' meetings. The in-house employees are still your co-workers, and part of maintaining a healthy and happy life is establishing good relationships with as many of them as possible.
Communicating effectively with people that are not distant from you is easier than communicating effectively with people that are more or less strangers.
Of course, you must separate personal relationships from professional relationships; this is not to say you should blur that line. However, even professional relationships should not consist solely in team meetings and brainstorming sessions. Checking out your teammates once in a while can solidify your professional relationships and enhance professional communications.
Come prepared for team meetings
A survey by Harvard Business Review shows 71% of employees believe meetings are unproductive and inefficient, while 65% believe that meetings prevent them from completing their work.
These stats show that we have too many meetings, and they last for too long. Executives now spend 23 hours in a week attending meetings – it was less than 10 hours in the 1960s.
Experience shows that one of the reasons for this is the lack of adequate preparation for the meeting. Many come into meetings without thinking about the topic of the meeting beforehand. Some meetings only have a topic and not an agenda.
Remote workers also suffer from this problem.
To reduce the duration and frequency of these meetings, there is a need for adequate preparation. Some of these tips can help:
- If you are the team head, give enough time for preparation by providing the team members a heads up. Do not announce meetings too close to the time of the meeting, except it is an emergency. If you are a team member, encourage your team lead to give enough time for preparation
- Every meeting should have a topic and an agenda. The former alone is insufficient. An agenda will help guide the discussion so that there are few unnecessary interruptions and time wastage. Sometimes, two short, organized meetings are better than one long, unending meeting.
- Prepare for the meeting: Too many meetings become unproductive because there is no preparation. Once you have an agenda for a meeting, think through the agenda and come up with the points you may want to make at every transition. When team members think on their feet, it wastes a lot of time.
Put experimentation above perfection
Brainstorming sessions are essential, especially for those in the creative industry.
However, a study by Yale shows that individuals are twice more likely to come up with solutions to creative puzzles than groups.
While brainstorming sessions are essential, some marketers recognize than in marketing; experimentation is more important than spending too much time in brainstorming sessions.
In marketing, the concept of agility is now well known since its popularization by Brian Clark of Copyblogger.
However, the principle of agility is applicable in many other business functions apart from marketing. Therefore, instead of endless hours trying to come up with the perfect ideas in brainstorming sessions, it is essential to come up with a good idea, implement it, see responses from the audience, and adjust the plan in response to actual data.
Strive for a comfortable environment
The environment where communications take place is essential to the effectiveness of that communication.
For example, you will want to be in a place where you can take notes. In some cases, you will need a good microphone for maximum results. Furthermore, you will want to avoid distractions.
This is why it is crucial to keep your meetings and brainstorming sessions in your workstation.
Ensure you have a smart desk where you can easily make notes and situate your microphone (and camera when necessary), a smart chair for comfort, and a privacy panel to stick notes you must not forget.
Communication essentials for freelancers
The communication problems for freelancers are a bit different. Let us look at five ways freelancers can improve communications with clients (and in some cases, co-freelancers).
Let them talk
When freelancers get on a discovery session with clients, it is easy to talk while the client listens.
We can go on and on highlighting our skillset, explaining the projects we have done and describing our results.
However, a discovery session is not about how good you are; it is about your clients' problems and the solutions you can bring to the table.
Therefore, give them the time to describe their business, identify their problems, emphasize their pain points, and clarify their actual needs. Giving them this space in the discovery session will make all consequent communications simple and effective.
Ask questions, seek clarifications, and set expectations.
However, while you give your clients the space to talk, you need to make important contributions. First, ensure you ask questions and seek clarifications when necessary.
There is nothing more frustrating than two people leaving a meeting with two different ideas and conclusions. By asking questions and seeking clarifications, you can avoid this conundrum.
Similarly, set expectations with the client. Let them know what you expect from them just as you seek to understand what they expect. By setting mutual expectations, you can avoid 70% of the problems that freelancers face in their relationships with clients.
Have an organized plan for feedback, suggestions, and revisions
The perfect discovery session will not take away the need for further meetings. However, instead of allowing those meetings to occur arbitrarily, you can put a structure in place for feedbacks, suggestions, and revisions.
Content writers can use a tool like Google Drive for better organization. Other freelancers can also employ tools that work well in their niche.
The goal is to systematize everything and allow as little arbitrariness as possible. Having a clearly defined structure can ease your communication and relationship with the client.
Communicate possible delays very early
Sadly, this is one area where many freelancers fail. It is wrong to wait until the delivery date before telling the client you can’t meet up with the delivery. Nothing turns a client-freelancer relationship sour as much as this.
If you pay attention to these productivity tips, you will know far ahead if you cannot deliver a job at the due date. This is why it is vital to develop good planning and organization skills.
Once you realize that there is a possibility (no matter how small) you will not deliver at the appropriate time, reach out to the client immediately. Let the client empathize with the reasons for the delay and work together to come up with new deadlines or milestones. Doing this can prevent rancor with the client and lead to a positive long-term relationship.
Strive for a comfortable environment
Freelancers have the same needs as remote employees.
Keep your meetings in your workstation and ensure you have all the necessary tools to aid your communication.
“Ensure you have a smart desk where you can easily make notes and situate your microphone (and camera when necessary), a smart chair for comfort, and a privacy panel to stick notes you must not forget.”
Miranda Kerr once said, “I think for any relationship to be successful, there needs to be loving communication, appreciation, and understanding.”
These words apply to the relationship between remote workers and their co-workers as well as freelancers and their clients.
Remote workers should seek to improve their communication skills and develop better relationships with various stakeholders instead of seeing communication as a problem.
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