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Communication in remote times

May 23, 2022
remoto

Currently at APSL we have 3 offices and the freedom to choose whether to work from home or not. However, a few years ago, 90% of our colleagues were side by side in the office.

In the post-covid era, communication has changed a lot and it is worth paying special attention to it, because it is not the same to talk to the colleague next to you as it is to do a meet, write an email or chat. An email is saved because it is usually a longer and more structured content that we reread before sending it, but chat is especially dangerous.

That's why we're going to see a few...

Tips to prevent your colleagues from ending up like this

stressed



1. Do not start conversations with a simple hello

Keep in mind that teleworking communication is asynchronous

Normally we write a message through the chat and our colleague can answer us 10 or 30 minutes later, when he can. If you only read "hello" you will think "what does he want?". And if when he answers you are not available, the conversation can be very slow...

Let's see an effective conversation with this example:

13:21 - John Smith: Hello, how are you? When you can, could you tell me if XXX corresponds to ticket 11243? Thank you very much!

13:48 - Me: Hello good, how are you? Well, what you say is correct, I have written it on the ticket as well. 

13:58 - John Smith: Great thanks

And a conversation that does not meet this advice:

13:21 - John Smith: Hello

13:48 - Me: Hello how are you, tell me :)

13:58 - John Smith: Very good! well look, I need you to confirm if XXXX  

14:12 - Me: Yes, that's right, do you have a ticket for this? 

John Smith: - Sure, it's 11243

Me: - Updated thanks!

John Smith: You!

As you can see, in the second case the conversation starts at the same time that the first case ends. We can say “hello how are you” in the same way while making the conversation more effective for everyone.

2. Not sending five messages when one is enough

If I don't have notifications turned off, it's quite annoying to hear little noises in a row... Also, there's no need to make people think there's an urgent problem when there isn't.

A single message can be sent by structuring the information with line breaks and spaces to facilitate reading.

3. Send messages with enough information and context

When our colleague sees the message, he needs to have sufficient information and, above all, context. You can keep the conversation from turning into a game of ping pong. Keep in mind that you will probably not be available when your partner reads it and then the conversation will stretch again.

Do your best so that your partner doesn't have to get the information in installments.

For example, in our case, if we talk between developers and want to ask for help about an error, it is necessary to indicate at least: ticket, branch, action or endpoint that triggers the error and trace of the error.

Avoid the situation of information 0 and chaos 100:

John Smith: the back is broken, the tests do not pass

Me: What test? what error does it give? which branch?

4. Answer questions unequivocally

Example to illustrate the problem:

Me: Hi John, I'm working at ZZZ, and I wanted to know if you've thought of a criteria for the new field. I can think of AAA or BBB. Which of these or other options do you prefer to use?

John Smith: Sounds good to me

OKAY…

sad cat



5. Do not mention the other person in private chats

Here I still don't know why there are people who do this...

If you text me @sonia in a private conversation with me, it's no use... I received the notification anyway, I know the message is for me... because there's no one else in the chat... and I'm already paying attention to you. So why do you mention me?

6. Take care of colleagues in group chats

Let's look at a conversation to understand this:

11:07 - Me: People! There have been changes in the specification of task 56484. If you are available, join this meet to coordinate us: meet.google.com/eum-sadgadg-sdf

11:09 - Julie Mao: OK!

11:10 - Jamie: Whoa

11:19 - John Smith: I'm coming, sorry I was helping Fulgencio.

meme




At first it doesn't seem like there was anything wrong and obviously we're teammates and we're here to help each other. But, depending on people's emotions, Fulgencio may feel inferior, like "ok thanks, I'm a knob and now everyone knows it"...

The idea is to learn all and not stop asking for help... just be careful and use other phrases such as:

  • Excuse me, I was on a call with Fulgencio
  • Sorry I was on a call
  • Sorry I was busy
  • Excuse me, I'm coming in


No need to give so much detail...

7. Use meet links responsibly 

I want to make it clear that I am not against videoconferences... but how many times have you been left with the feeling that an online meeting could have been a message?

So I propose reasons to make a spontaneous call (we are not talking about scheduled dailies or weekly coordination meetings): 

  • if the explanation by chat is going to be tedious
  • if i need to share screen
  • if you have to coordinate tasks between several people
  • other important communications
  • to avoid misunderstandings

Likewise, do not send a meet to a colleague without telling him the reason. If the colleague knows what is going on, she can prepare herself, look for information, etc. Keep in mind that not everyone is comfortable jumping into conversations without planning ahead. It is better to give your partner the opportunity to decide whether he wants to enter a meeting or not. It can surprise you and solve your doubt with a phrase or link.

A message like this:

John Smith: Hello, do you have 5 minutes? meet.google.com/eum-nslgsdvg-vdf

Unless you're the CEO or any “C” something, in my head the answer is NO. Because I have no context, I don't know what this videoconference is for, I don't know if it's more important than what I'm doing...

And even if you answer yes, you really want to answer no.

A message like the following may get better results:

John Smith: Hi, how are you? I write very little to you but I have to start a new project and I think you know more about XXX. Would it be good for you to lend me a hand? We can meet if it works better for you. Thank you!

Answer A - Me: Hello John, yes of course, this is quite well explained in this wiki: xxxxx.wiki.com If you still have doubts afterwards, we will meet without any problems. You tell me.

In this case, since it seems like a simple topic, you can continue with brief questions through the same chat or if there are still important questions, the meet is organised.

Answer B - Me: Hi John, I did work with XXX on another project. I call a meet for this afternoon and so we can see it better. Are you okay at 4? :) 

In this case it may be something more complicated, a topic that we haven't seen for 2 years, so it's better for us to hold the meeting later with time to go over it.

8. Take care of the tone

In writing we do not listen to a tone of voice, but rather we read and assign the tone to it in our head… so the tone is added by the person who receives the message. We will prevent it from being interpreted in a bad tone if we write complete sentences, in addition to reducing the probability of misunderstandings.

You can also try to be nice, as your partner may be having a rough day. The message will be read with the mood you are in. You could add emoticons or comments on topics of common interest to brighten or defuse the conversations.

John Smith: @sonia PR https://github.com/team/project/pull/382

My reaction to this message :(


mad doge



Instead with something like this:

John Smith: Hola! Hello! I just assigned you a PR https://github.com/team/project/pull/382. We are full this sprint

My reaction is :D

Puppie


The interpretation and the feeling generated by the communication is totally different and the message is the same... or is it?

Finally, do not get overwhelmed on this issue of communication, simply:

  • Put yourself in the other person's place
  • Try to make it easy for your teammates
  • common sense for everything
  • Cheer up to continue doing things the best possible together!

_

References:

  • First photo of Sigmund @sigmund available on Unsplash 
  • Second photo of Tim Gouw @punttim available on Unsplash 
  • Rest of photos generated in imgflip.com

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