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February 11, 2019 By Casmin Wisner

How to Avoid Miscommunication With Your Remote Workers

February 11, 2019

By Casmin Wisner

Read More from Casmin Wisner

February 11, 2019

How to Avoid Miscommunication With Your Remote Workers

By Casmin Wisner
Public Relations Specialist

We’ve all seen (and maybe even benefited from) the rise of the remote worker. In fact, these days, remote workers are often key components in your business success. So naturally, boosting their productivity should be a vital part of your strategic plan this year. However, common forms of communication with remote workers, such as web chats and emails, seem to be particularly susceptible to misinterpretation. Why? Because they’re missing context clues and can lead to hair-pulling and frustrating messages back and forth between sender and recipient.

A 2017 employee survey from two firms, Fierce Conversations and Quantum Workplace, revealed ongoing problems with virtual communication in the workplace. Researchers interviewed 1,300 employees and 81 percent of them said they felt miscommunication was a frequent occurrence.

Moreover, nearly half of the survey respondents (46 percent) thought technology-assisted communication created more miscommunication. They cited reasons including a lack of details in the correspondence, which increases confusion and misinterpretation. Coupled with the removal of cues such as facial expressions and gestures that aid in interpreting meaning, digital communication formats make it more difficult for a recipient to understand the sender’s tone or intent.

Rather than watch creativity and motivation levels plummet, try implementing these tips to keep communication strong with your remote workers in the New Year.

Schedule regular video conference calls.

Having visual interaction through video calls lets you get to know each other’s communication styles. This approach enables participants to experience those crucial non-verbal cues, including tone of voice and facial expressions. The interaction and ability to get immediate clarification helps minimize misinterpretation and ultimately improve productivity.

While not all communications can be accomplished through video conferencing, a regularly scheduled weekly or monthly video meeting can help everyone understand context and reduce differences in communication styles, especially when it may involve generational, cultural, or native language differences.

Don’t rush your communication.

In rushing through conversations, you actually reduce productivity for everyone involved. It may be tempting to resort to emojis and shorthand text, but not everyone understands these or wants to spend time deciphering digital hieroglyphics. Instead, skip the emojis and use complete sentences.

Always make sure you’ve responded to everything that has been asked or stated. Often a team member will send more than one question in a text or email in order to get direction. If the receiver doesn’t take the time to recognize all questions, this can lead to further texts, instant messages, and emails until all questions get answered, with increasing frustration levels throughout the process.

Think and read before hitting the send button.

Always pause and re-read a written message before sending. Consider what you’ve written from the other person’s perspective.

Often we know what we mean and tend to gloss over the semantics, since we feel sure we expressed ourselves well. However, what we left out may be exactly what the other person needs to continue working on their part of a project. It’s always better to add as many details as possible rather than assume the other person can read your mind and fill in those gaps.

Also, consider if there are remote workers where English is not their first language. Read over what you are going to send and look for places to shorten and simplify the language.

Finally, don’t use sarcasm or biting humor in your writing. This kind of tone is especially prone to misinterpretation and can create unfortunate emotional responses in the recipient. Even if you are having a bad day or feeling frustrated, keep it out of your text or email message.

Maintain clear lines of communication.

Establishing consistently clear communication helps maintain accuracy and rapport. Instead of overthinking electronic messages or getting upset, remote workers can devote their energy to accomplishing their work. That’s vital as you work towards starting off the new year on the right foot.

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