Everyone loves the flexibility to work from home on occasion. It’s especially appreciated if you have children or elderly parents to take care of, as most errands and appointments take place during the day.
While working from home can be a great perk for a few days, challenges will start to rear their ugly head after a week or two. For example, how often should you be checking in with your teammates? Should you be in touch with your boss every day? Do you always need to set up that Zoom meeting or is a quick phone call or Slack message good enough?
Making the move from a traditional office to a home office environment can be trickier than one might expect, especially if you’re used to the day-in-day-out office setup. This is especially true for communicating effectively.
Here are some of our top tips for communicating effectively while working from home. Following these tips will help you get more done and even have some fun while doing it.
1) Settle on a Plan
Based on your company and role, determine how much time you should be spending on meetings per week. This will obviously need to be fluid as things come up, but you should seriously consider how often you need to be interacting with your team.
Once you have a rough estimate, think about how to spread this out throughout the week. At minimum, you’ll likely want to have at least one team meeting at the beginning of the week and a daily check in call with your boss.
By ensuring that you have regular contact with your team, you’ll keep up that strong connection that you had in the office.
2) Choose the Right Software
Some companies, especially startups and scaleups, are used to using a myriad of communication tools. However, if your software infrastructure is designed for in-office use, you’ll have to make some decisions on how to supplement these for home use.
After a week, you should consider what is working and what needs to be improved.
For example, are your instant messaging or video conferencing tools working for your team? If not, you should consider Slack, Skype, or Google Hangouts for messaging and Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts for video.
3) Become a Communications Leader
At the office, it’s easy to strike up an informal conversation while at the coffee machine, in the halls, or in someone’s office. It’s often these lighthearted conversations that build strong team bonds and contribute to a wider sense of purpose for the company.
While working at home, it’s more difficult to have these conversations as there still needs to be a formal process to initiate these such as setting a time or picking up the phone.
Whatever needs to be done to initiate these conversations – whether it’s sending a quick good morning message or making a point to get in touch with others to talk about an ongoing project, making the first step will go a long way for effective team communication.
4) Learn Video Conferencing Etiquette
With so many people turning to video conferencing to stay in touch and get work done, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has used these software applications before. This is particularly true if you’re used to in-office, phone, or email communications.
In general, there are a few rules to follow including:
- Only speak when it’s your turn
- Keep your microphone on mute when you’re not talking to avoid feedback
- Avoid fixing your appearance such as touching your face or hair
- Try and look professional – at least from the waste up! (As it’s formally called, the work mullet)
- Be on time for your meeting which means being on the call and ready to go at the start time
- Call from a quiet area where you will not be disturbed by others (if possible)
5) Make Some Rules
For most people, maintaining your regular work hours will be key to working from home successfully. But, just like at the office, it doesn’t mean you need to be at your desk for the entire time. For example, people go to the washroom, meet with teammates, go on lunch, and take walks to clear their head.
With this in mind, make sure you indicate to others when you’re online in the morning and when you sign off at night. This will signal to your colleagues when you’re available and when you’re not for work. If you’re going to step away for a prolonged period, you should also indicate when you’re going to be back.
6) Schedule Some Fun Social Time
When you’re working from home, setting up regular social time and fun team-bonding events is very important as it helps replace the informal office conversations mentioned above while keeping the attention away from work.
During hard and stressful times, strong relationships between teammates are key to a company’s success. So never be afraid to grab your favourite Friday drink and discuss the week that was with your teammates over a video call.