To say that we are in the midst of a uniquely tumultuous situation for businesses and individuals alike would perhaps be an understatement. Amid mandatory closures and the critical need to flatten the COVID-19 contagion curve, many businesses are now struggling to shift essential processes and communications to a remote-friendly model.
As a research, design, and engineering consultancy with clients all over the country and the world, Daedalus has been on the forefront of virtual collaboration for decades — effectively and efficiently completing projects ranging from healthcare dashboards to safety compliance systems all while working remotely.
So, to help ease the transition for companies that may be less familiar with virtual collaboration, the Daedalus User Experience team is sharing some of our company’s best practices for using each of the major styles of remote communication to help you keep your business moving forward … as close to usual as possible.
Written communication consists of two main subcategories: synchronous and asynchronous.
Synchronous Written Communication
Synchronous communication simulates live conversation—there is a back and forth interaction between two or more parties with an expectation of a near immediate response. Texting and direct messaging, either to a single person or to a group, are examples of synchronous communication.
Synchronous Written Communication Best Practices
- Keep messages short and skimmable, even if you have a lot to say
- Let others know when you are and aren’t unavailable for live chat
- If discussing project work via chat, share a brief summary of action items with participants for easy reference
At Daedalus, we’ve also been maintaining an office-wide Google Hangout since we’ve moved to working from home that lets everyone know who’s online and who’s stepped away for a break. We also use it to broadcast general requests for assistance or if someone has finished a task early and can help out on another project. We’ve also been using it as a replacement for the general office chatter that we are all missing right now.
Asynchronous Written Communication
Most of us are more than familiar with the most prominent example of asynchronous communication: email. Asynchronous messages more closely emulate traditional correspondence and tend to be a little longer, more formal, and, unless otherwise noted, less urgently in need of a response.
While most of us have already been using email for decades, it may still be worth revisiting your email best practices using the list below as a guide. In the absence of shared office spaces or face-to-face contact, it is more crucial than ever to ensure that your messages are clear, concise, and action-oriented.
Asynchronous Written Communication Best Practices
- Take the time to compose your message clearly and completely…
- …but keep it brief. (Hint – bullet points are very good for this!)
- Specify deadlines for responses or action items, if relevant, and do so early in your message
- Check for new messages regularly, but allow yourself space to work
- If an urgent response is needed, consider more direct methods of contact
Services such as Slack, which feature collaborative tools, messaging options, and file sharing capabilities, bridge the divide between both synchronous and asynchronous communication—so both best practice lists above are relevant!
Voice or Video Communication
Whether it’s a video conference call with multiple participants or a phone call with a client, sometimes it’s most expedient just to talk live. Voice and video communication have the benefit of the speed of real-time conversation and being able to convey tone and expression, but unless they are being recorded, they don’t come with a built-in record of conversations the way written mediums do.
Voice or Video Communication Best Practices
- Take longer than normal pauses between speaking to allow for lag time and follow up comments, especially if multiple people are on the line.
- Speak one at a time—use text-based chat if you need to have a brief side conversation.
- Mute your mic if not speaking to help decrease ambient noise – but remember that your mic is muted!
- Designate a note taker and follow up important meeting with a written log of important discussion points, action items, and deadlines.
Our final hint here is to double check your video settings—make sure you’re only sharing what you intend to share, whether it’s an errant application running on your computer or “oddities” in your visual feed.
And remember to lock your office door if you’re home with your kids!
In addition to the communication methods above, there are also several online tools such as InVision Freehand, Limnu, and Miro that will allow you and your colleagues to communicate visually through live drawings or screen sharing, often with a supplemental audio or visual component. This can be a great way to demonstrate processes or how-tos, but due to its greater complexity, it is also the most prone to error.
Visual Communication Best Practices
- Anticipate lag time and pace yourself accordingly—slow down!
- Talk your viewers through what you’re doing as you’re doing it – this is where experience in research talk-aloud protocols comes in handy!
- Check in with participants periodically to ensure they’re still on the same page
Ultimately, the overall best practice, no matter which communication method you use, is to be both proactive and patient. You got this!
Daedalus has been a pioneer in remote project work for decades and we will be sharing tips, tricks, and best practices on our social media accounts over the next few weeks, so stay tuned to our Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter feeds. Feel free to reach out with any questions!