It’s no secret that job seekers need communication skills. In fact, communication skills are consistently one of the most sought-after qualities by hiring managers in candidates. The entire hiring process requires communication skills: writing your resume to ace that job interview, actually working on the job, and finally quitting (or getting fired).
Now that remote work is on the rise; communication skills have become even more crucial for professional success. While misunderstandings can occur when meeting face-to-face, what more could you ask for when most interactions happen online? Here are the top communication skills you need for successful remote work.
1. Note taking
Note taking is an important skill in the digital world, where we are overloaded with information. A Pew Research Center article on the negative effects of a digital life quotes one respondent as saying:
“A major impact (of digital living) is the overall decrease in short-term memory, and…what was the question?” – anonymous respondent, Pew Research Center
Being hyper-connected has made it difficult to maintain the task, which poses a problem for employers and remote workers. As Indeed says, employers want team members who can interpret instructions and communicate them effectively to others. You certainly won’t be able to do that if you’re like this anonymous respondent.
If you constantly forget your tasks, use note-taking apps. There are plenty of online tools you can use, from the very simple apps like Microsoft Sticky Notes, to the more complicated Obsidian (for sophisticated note-takers on steroids) to the popular Todoist, which sits sweetly between the first two.
In the physical workplace, it’s easy for people to chat with you in your cubicle or during lunch hours and get an instant response. In the virtual workplace, you can easily ignore or forget to respond to emails, calls, or instant messages.
If you don’t want people to think you’re slacking off at work, do your best to be responsive (unless you’re in an emergency or on vacation). You can easily lose the trust of your team or client if you don’t respond to the most important messages. Try these best practices to make sure you don’t miss any important communications:
If you miss something, quickly apologize and make amends.
3. Online presentation
Presenting online is very different from presenting in person. You will usually have to prepare your own technical equipment or you will have to coordinate with another person who is at another location. Connecting with an audience also depends on eye contact, gestures and movements, much of which is lost online.
That said, be sure to invest in good equipment and online tools, in order to sound professional and look great on a webcam. Practice with your presentation – maybe even record yourself using the Loom screen recorder – until you’re sure about your pitch, volume, slides and look .
Since your audience will be interacting with your slides most of the time, avoid using boring slide presentations. You can download attractive templates from sites like 24Slides and Powerpointify. Or you can try Canva’s presentations, which let teams collaborate on a presentation, let the audience ask questions, and let multiple presenters control slides.
4. Take and give constructive feedback
It’s harder to understand what clients and employers want from you without face-to-face contact. It is also more difficult to report on work progress and expectations in a remote work environment. You don’t even have non-verbal cues to bank on and you can’t really “interpret” the tone based on an email.
Set up your work process to include a constructive feedback system that will give your team members a chance to honestly rate each other. You can do this via:
- Feedback forms: Suggest using feedback form using editable templates from Formstack or 123FormBuilder.
- Instant messaging: Ask clarifying questions through your client/boss’ preferred IM channel. You can ask, “So, based on your last email, you want me to…” or “You mentioned I needed…is that correct?”
- E-mail: Develop and submit an action plan once you receive feedback asking you to improve your work.
5. Professional Writing
Much of digital communication is now done in writing, especially for teams that have turned their backs on long and unproductive video meetings. We chat, email, and send formal documents, all of which require us to write clearly.
Writing skills cannot fully capture the characteristics of in-person communication, but they can effectively inform, persuade, motivate, or simplify the complex if done well. Good writing can also create intimate spaces and give the impression of immediacy (if you communicate in a timely manner, that is).
To increase your writing prowess, always edit and proofread your work. It’s so easy to install a grammar checker like Grammarly or Hemingway, and use an online thesaurus to help you create error-free documents. To learn style and voice, you can download Kindle books or join the best online communities for writers.
6. Use of various communication channels
With so many communication tools available today, it is important to know the most appropriate ones to use. Should I send an email or use instant messaging? Is Slack or Microsoft Teams better? Email is generally better for sending detailed information, and some prefer Slack’s user experience, but your employers and clients might think differently.
The best way to go is to ask what they prefer. While others may consider Skype old-fashioned, some customers still prefer it. Maybe they would even choose phone calls over video calls.
Once you know their preferred communication channel, try these channels yourself. Read the FAQs and watch the online tutorials if the platform seems complicated to you. With a little patience, you can master new tools and gain confidence.
Skilled Communicators Make Better Remote Workers
Today’s skilled communicator must learn to write effectively, take notes, be responsive, present online, give and receive feedback, and use different communication channels. They should also know the best digital communication tools to use, depending on the situation or employer preference.
Master these important communication skills to gain the trust of your employer or client and succeed in remote work. Are you looking for a job or hoping to improve your other professional skills? You might want to know more about the skills you need to land a job.