Communication Skills for Successful Remote Professionals

As a remote professional, you do have some luxuries – you can work in your jammies and your commute involves stepping over the dog on the way to your desk. On the flip side, you also have a few challenges your on-site co-workers do not – out of sight, out of mind, you can't walk down the hall to ask a question, and the manager can't see you at work.

Those challenges are precisely why remote professionals must be master communicators. You must use communication to remain productive and present in the day-to-day work of the team, as well as reassure your manager that you are contributing.

Some ideas for being a better communicator:

  1. Establish deliberate and regular avenues of communication – on-site visits, one-on-one phone calls, conference calls, email, instant messaging. In today's workplace, we have numerous tools at our disposal. Find the combination that works well for the organization, manager and team you are serving. Understand that the successful combination of communication tools may vary from job to job or, even, project to project within the same organization.
  2. Set up a dedicated workspace that is free of distractions – kids talking, TV blaring, dogs barking, outside noise. By keeping your space interruption free, you will come across more professionally on the phone and allow you to focus on the job at hand.
  3. Make sure you have a reliable, fast, internet connection. Your success as a remote professional will be heavily, if not almost entirely, based on your ability to operate across the internet. Your livelihood depends on the speed and reliability of your connectivity.
  4. Make sure you have a reliable cell phone, including a service plan to accommodate your needs each month. You are being judged based on your visibility and participation in the team. Don't miss the opportunities to meet your obligations because your cell phone doesn't have enough minutes.
  5. Invest in a reputable headset. You will spend hours on the phone. Save your shoulder and your hands and invest in a headset. Also, don't rely solely on your speaker phone. In some cases, especially with conference calls, callers on speaker phones can be hard to hear and they can contribute additional background noise that interrupts the call.
  6. Utilize IM or Office Communicator to get quick answers and exchanges. Don't use it as your sole method of communication, but as a compliment to it. Email, conference calls, and phone calls are still key.
  7. Maintain work hours consistent with the majority of the team, in the time zone of your client site. This may not seem like a communication tool, but it comes down to availability. By being available at times your team is available, you are better able to communicate and support the team.
  8. Keep your manager and team informed on your schedule and use out of office utilities to publish out of office notifications. Don't let your manager wonder where you are or what you are up to. Keep the lines of communication open and keep them informed of any schedule changes. Because you are remote, you are not only being measured on your productivity, but you are also being measured on your visibility.
  9. Be ready and able to show results. This starts by communicating with your manager when you come into the job. What defines success for them? What challenges are they facing that you can help with? As you work, document your progress, work processes, roadblocks and results.

Our consultants are our experts in the field. If there are other communications best practices you rely on, share this with us!

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