Between December 2019 and January 2020 – the world changed imperceptibly. As a New Year, a new numerical series and a new decade started; few of us would have imagined that merely 60 days into 2020, and the practice of ‘social distancing’ and ‘working from home’ would become the new self-imposed norm.
As we learn to lean into uncertainty, grow in solidarity and still stay connected to our work-places, colleagues and projects become remote; we must navigate the fine line between working from home and staying on top of our work assignments. These ten simple communication hacks will ensure that working from home, if new for you, is productive! Even if you are leading teams or just shifting your work desk home, it helps to have a few pointers along the way.
- Keep your work email ids separate and maintain email etiquette
As much tempted as we are otherwise; it is important to keep work and personal emails distinguished. In case you have to work on a regular email id rather than your company specific one; create an email id for work and keep your communication streamlined. Do remember that virtual offices need more focus and attention since we may have multiple things that require our attention at home.
This also helps maintain email etiquette. Keep your email timelines sacrosanct. It is wise to retain the same morning routine you follow when you were in office– so that your commute time becomes the time for you to read your emails and be prepared for your day ahead.
- Dock your work communications either on project basis or reporting basis
However you’d prefer – I recommend segregating ongoing e-communications on project basis or reporting structure basis for easy reference and immediate actions. In actual brick and mortar workspaces – it is possible for colleagues to talk and have multiple discussions and parallel communication threads. To avoid being stressed when confined to home and also to cut out miscommunication – tag your emails in advance and maintain your productivity. Do remember that not everyone will log into emails at the same time; aligning work and home takes time if one isn’t used to regular working from home.
- Keep email subject line tags as Delegate; Action and Information-Essential only
As a common practice, many of us are used to writing too many emails or too few. The need of the hour is to practice effective written communication as too many emails not only crowd up your inbox but also serve as major distractions when trying to maximise work from home hours.
Email subject line tags will help teams and co-workers know exactly how and where their work responsibilities fit in.
- Keep communication clear, short, succinct and mindful
While it is tempting to believe that more emails means more productivity; in reality ‘work from home’ can be a challenge for those who have low focus and are probably not used to working from home in a disciplined manner. Effective communication means that your email should get the work done / completed and is addressed to the right group of people. Remember, a virtual office doesn’t give the respite of immediate answers / updates / making multiple corrections immediately to address any errors. I recommend that you set yourself a daily email limit to maximise your actual project work and minimise email distractions and unnecessary information overload.
- Write emails in detail after discussing first
For many of us, working from home for the first time, writing emails is tedious. A conversation over coffee in the cafeteria keeps many of us on top of our work projects and updates. When working from home; operating in a virtual workspace regularly can be taxing at times. Few emails written in detail will save everyone plenty of time. Clear detailed communication is critical to productivity.
- Understand and respect email timelines
As we move to virtual workspaces for some days ahead; remember, productivity of every individual counts. Respect timelines so that work flow stays uninterrupted. It’s easier to miss out emails when you do not have an actual biometric login or the feel of closing work post 6 pm physically. Virtual work practice means we are digitally and mentally constantly connected. It is a prerequisite to respect e-communication timelines for everyone; factoring in timelines across countries for cross-cultural teams.
- Avoid multiple Whatsapp groups and parallel discussions
With almost everyone using Whatsapp and being a part of multiple Whatsapp groups; over-communication; information overload; parallel discussions are the norm. Avoid multiple discussion threads to ensure an error free communication and work delegation. Keep the communication lines simple, clear and clutter free. Avoid miscellaneous forwards on work related groups so that important information is not missed out on.
- Designate time for video calls/ virtual meetings and factor in network and connectivity challenges, technical glitches
Video calls are best scheduled during hours where maximum team members have minimum distractions – mornings and afternoons work best. Factor in network connectivity and make sure that e-meeting planner and agendas are sorted and scheduled well in advance for all. This will ensure everyday work goes on smoothly and team is aligned to manage any emergency; should it crop up last minute.
- When leading teams – delegate work a week ahead
Easier said than done but it is the need of the hour. Planning ahead takes time and effort but it sets the tone and focus on things that matter to business productivity and revenues. No plan is 100% failsafe and the first step to make work effective is to plan in advance. We all have limited reserves of focus, energy and clarity and setting ourselves to be productive in a virtual work-space will need more than just multiple shots of caffeine!
- Do share your online free resources and tools
Some of us are internet pros and may have access to or know about online tools and resources that help work better. Be generous and do share with your peers and colleagues. If you know of resources or work hacks that truly can save efforts, align communications, design some good PPTs, cut a PDF or simply send files with a link share – do share with your peers and colleagues. A simple share goes a long way.
Remember, Reset and Realign your official communications for the better! The time is now!
We all are in this together! Let’s triumph it together and emerge more mindful, conscious and appreciative of our workspaces, responsibilities and colleagues.
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