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A New Guide to Workplace Communication

Communicating effectively is a critical aspect of getting any job done, whether it occurs in-person or virtually. But let’s face it, communication is easier when it’s in-person. This is understandable since, according to various studies, 93% of communication is made up of nonverbal cues.

At this point in time, according to Gallup Panel Data, the number of employed adults engaged in working from home has skyrocketed to 62% due to COVID.

Buffer.com asked remote workers to identify their biggest struggle with remote work in 2019: 22% reported problems in “unplugging” after work, 19% complained of loneliness, and 17% focused on diminished collaboration.

With almost two-thirds of all employees working remote, and at least 17% of those struggling with diminished collaboration, the potential cost in lost productivity due to a slip in communication can become astronomical. According to Quantified Communications, a business communications advisory firm, businesses with approximately 100 employees spend an average of 17 hours a week clarifying unclear messages. This translates to an annual cost of approximately $525,000 in lost productivity. Workplace communication matters!

Working remotely can afford organizations the ability to save money by lowering overhead, increasing productivity, reducing attrition and other cost savings. However, in order to reap the full benefits of working remotely, an organization must utilize a comprehensive plan of attack for workplace communication.

Follow these best practices to ensure you are communicating effectively.

Email Etiquette Guidelines

  • Use action items to make your subject lines clear. Like it or not, your email is ranked by importance based on the subject line. So it’s imperative that your message (what you need from the recipient) comes across clearly within a split-second.
  • Action Items:
    • Action – use if you need the recipient to do something, i.e. sign the attached document
    • Response – use if you need the recipient to reply back to you
    • Read-only – use if the recipient needs the information but the email doesn’t require an action or a reply
    • Urgent – use in tandem with Action or Response Needed; only use if you need something within the current day
    • Date – use in tandem with Action or Response Needed; use to show when you need something, i.e. Feb. 16th, 2:00 PM
  • Example Subject Line: Action – Sign attached BU contract – Feb. 16, 2:00pm
  • Move key information to the top. Every marketer and journalist will tell you that the best way to get your message across is to place the most important information in clear view at the top. This method ensures that even the busiest of email skimmers gets the key points.
  • Give details. To avoid miscommunication, you should explain items in a step-by-step fashion. Always assume that the person has no knowledge of what you are talking about or the steps needed to move forward unless told otherwise.
  • Keep messages short but detailed. Try to keep emails under three sentences. If necessary, use bullet points to explain details rather than a large paragraph. This way the important details won’t be skimmed over.
  • Always check your spelling and grammar. Nothing says unprofessional like a handful of misspelled words or incomplete sentences. If you are not sure whether something is spelled correctly or whether a passage contains correct grammar, don’t fret. There’s an app for that.
    • Grammarly is a writing tool that integrates with Google Chrome and can be used on both mobile and the desktop. It makes recommendations for better grammar when you write. And the best part, it’s FREE. https://www.grammarly.com/
  • Provide the proper data and documents. With the ever-increasing use of mobile devices, no one can guarantee that they will have immediate access to the specific data or documents that you may refer to in your emails, if they have them at all. So if you reference a document or specific data, attach it to the email.
  • Send the message only to relevant recipients. The majority of the time it is not necessary to CC numerous people or hit Reply-All when the conversation is only pertinent to a couple people. Doing so causes a buildup of convoluted stacked emails, confusing expectations of who needs to do what action, and a shortage of memory space for filing.
  • Double-check before you send. This one practice could save you from having to send another email to follow-up on what you missed in the previous. This is a valuable habit to develop when composing emails or performing other tasks.
  • Get clarification via a phone call or video chat. It’s okay to send questions via email, but if you are still unsure about something, sometimes it’s just easier on both parties to get clarification in person.

Cell Phone Etiquette Guidelines

  • Don’t text coworkers outside of working hours. An emergency on your part is not an emergency for others. We all value our personal time outside the office, so value your employees and peers by respecting their time outside of working hours. 

Video Meeting Etiquette Guidelines

  • Be engaged. It’s easy to let your attention wander, answer an email or pick up your phone while on a video call, but these actions show the other people on the call that what you’re doing is far more important to you than what they’re saying. Be mindful of your body language.
  • Mute yourself. External influences that seem unnoticeable to us at the time like the sound of the wind, rustling of paper, or ringing of a distant phone can disrupt and distract from the call. If you are not speaking, mute yourself so nothing can be picked up by the microphone. 
  • Be accountable with action items. Video meetings can be fun when you haven’t seen your coworkers in-person for a time, but don’t let catching up distract you from your meeting goals. Write up a list of action items and send them out to your coworkers before the call. Then hold yourself and your peers accountable for checking off each item before the call ends.

Do you have additional workplace communication tips to add? Let us know!

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