How to communicate effectively when you’re working from home – even when technology isn’t playing along

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Are you struggling to get your point across now you’re working from home because of internet problems and technological blunders? Here’s how to ensure your voice gets heard.

As the UK enters its third week in lockdown and those of us who can work from home settle into our makeshift desk set-ups, the reality of not being able to speak face-to-face with our colleagues is likely becoming an issue.

Sure, video calling services like Zoom and Slack allow us to see and speak to our colleagues whenever we need to, but slow internet and screen lags inevitably mean no conversation is plain sailing. There’s nothing quite like trying to get your point across while four members of your team shout “can you hear me?” as their internet crashes for the 99th time.

And then there are those moments when you send a perfectly crafted email to explain what you were meant to say on your call, only for the recipient to get it late or miss it completely, because their inbox is full of messages from your co-workers all trying to do the same thing. It’s exhausting to think about, right?

Of course, internet issues and missed emails aren’t anyone’s fault – after all, these are unprecedented times and we’re all having to adapt to a new “normal” – but it’s OK to feel a little bit frustrated when you’re not able to communicate as effectively as you’d like to. It’s at times like these when we realise how important sitting down with someone and just talking really is, especially when it comes to communicating mood and knowing where you stand with someone.

For people (like me) who need that validation of knowing where they stand to feel secure, working from home and getting a point across has been difficult. Indeed, in a situation like the one we find ourselves in right now, it’s probably more important than ever that we communicate well and often so we can do our jobs effectively. So how can we do that?

A woman typing on her laptop
Are you struggling to get your point across during a conference call? Try sitting down with your manager and talking one-to-one.

“Building solid relationships at work has always been an essential part of businesses but now more than ever they need to be rebuilt or made better while working remotely,” explains Alexandra Lichtenfeld, business mentor and founder of Client Matters. “Closer relationships may need to be established where they may not have been in the past. This means trust is essential and comes from talking and understanding each other.”

For Lichtenfeld, communicating effectively when we’re working from home doesn’t just mean a morning conference call and catch up with the team – it means individual, one-to-one conversations when they’re needed.

“Make time in the day for a group chat discussing how everyone is actually feeling,” she explains. “A 9am morning group call is a useful way to align as a team on the week ahead but also ensure you have a one-to-one discussion with your line manager to foster wellbeing – it doesn’t have to be all work related either.”

Lichtenfeld also explains that, while we may feel disconnected from the working environment while we’re WFH, it’s still important to air any grievances you have as soon as they arise.

“In terms of communicating efficiently, this is not a time for holding back,” she says. “If something is upsetting you relating to work, then voice your problem with your colleagues or manager. Senior management teams, line managers and business leaders in general should not assume everything is OK.”

A desk space
If you're struggling with something or have a frustration to raise with a co-worker, make sure you raise it how you normally would.

It goes without saying that relying on emails and Slack group chats aren’t enough to keep everyone connected. As cyber psychologist Linda Kaye explains: “It’s always quite difficult to communicate mood in any text based communication – that’s always been a challenge.

“What normally happens when you’re emailing the people you work with is that you then follow things up outside that email conversation and things get resolved and rectified in different ways – not just over that platform. But now there’s more demand to get things done in one space.”

With this in mind, it’s important to diversify the methods of communication you’re using while you’re working from home – and work with other members of your team to address any difficulties you might be facing. 

“During conference calls, we should go with our gut feelings and really listen to everyone so you can spot those who might be having problems,” Lichtenfeld adds. “If technology fails and calls drop out and quality is poor, try not to get frustrated… it happens, it’s not your fault and it will correct itself in due course.

“Remember, everyone is in the same boat!”

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Images: Getty/Unsplash

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