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6 best practices for effective remote team communication

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With more organizations allowing remote work every year, team messaging is critical to keeping distributed teams communicating and collaborating effectively. The problem is, communicating through text is vastly different than communicating in person. Ideas can be misunderstood, expressions can be misconstrued, and walls of text can get glanced over. Team messaging has an entirely different form of etiquette, and by understanding the rules, you’ll be able to take your team’s collaborative spirit to the next level.

Here are our six best practices to effectively communicate using team messaging:

1. Consider your audience.

Texting is by nature a quick and casual form of communication, with shorthand, symbols, and slang (i.e., emojis, gifs, memes, etc.) for just about everything. When participating in business chat, keep in mind whom you are conversing with, what you are trying to convey, and the most appropriate way to express your message. Maybe you know what IMO means, but does your 60-year-old boss? And will he or she know you’re only expressing your personal opinion and not a fact?

2. Organize your team messaging tools.

Set up teams, rooms, or channels that are clearly and specifically named, and include just those working in a particular department (i.e., development, marketing, sales, etc.), with a certain client, or on a particular project to help ensure that you’re speaking to the right people and your messages make sense. You can even organize your less-formal conversations by setting up a virtual “break room” team or channel, where people can drop in to chat and bond with their coworkers.

3. Keep messages brief and concise.

Chat is, by definition, brief, so try to avoid sending messages that are more than a few sentences long. Take care to convey the essential message without over-the-top embellishment. And if you find that you need to share more detailed information, consider using another mode of communication, such as a shared document or note.

4. Make your chats actionable.

Many team messaging platforms include built-in project management and productivity tools, which means that details such as tasks, assignments, milestones, and deadlines can easily be added to team calendars and other project management features. Include all information necessary to turn your conversation into an actual to-do list.

5. Proofread your messages.

From typos to oddball autocorrects, chat tends to be riddled with errors, especially if you’re typing on a mobile device. Reread what you write before you hit send. Also, be aware of the time zones in which your collaborators are working. “End of day,” for example, is dependent on where you are, so a 4:00 PM PST meeting might be after-hours for your East Coast counterparts.

6. Be polite.

Just because chat has a more informal feel doesn’t mean it’s impersonal or impolite. Show your respect by using the person’s name (which, as an @ mention also alerts that person there’s a message waiting), mind your Ps & Qs, and be thoughtful in your responses. You’ll earn plenty of goodwill from using good manners, even in casual conversation.

Our days are spent conversing, and thanks to persistent chat, we’re more connected than ever before. Ensure efficient communication by taking the time to think before you chat.

Originally published Mar 14, 2020, updated Sep 10, 2021

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