Ben Sinclair

May 17, 2023

Communication challenges in a remote workplace

I've been working remotely for almost 5 years now, and it has been fascinating learning how to be an effective communicator remotely and fostering good communication between colleagues.

Great leaders can create an environment of efficient communication in a remote workplace. Whether you're the CEO, a manager, or a team lead, you have the power to help your peers and those below you be great communicators by setting the example and putting the right tools at their disposal.

At the end of the day, you can only control what you can, which means you will be dealing with different types of individuals you have no control over and who might be best communicated in different ways. No matter how good of a communicator you think you are, your communication can go nowhere if you aren't aware of how to communicate with an individual effectively.

How much your communication matters to the person you communicate with can also significantly affect the outcome. Sometimes, other people simply don't have the headspace for whatever it is you're communicating, especially if you communicate in a way that doesn’t suit them.

Below are different types of individuals I've encountered in my remote workplace communication journey. Remember that sometimes you communicate with more than one type at a time, so every communication needs a quick strategy check before sending anything.

The "I've got this" individual

These are the individuals that, no matter how you communicate to them, will take the time to understand, ask the right questions and put the request on whatever to-do list they have. You can trust that they will get it done.

In this sort of situation, although you trust them and know they can consume what you have to say, don't push your luck by poorly communicating to this group (or any for that matter) and making it hard for them to digest.

The "I'm too busy" individual

I saw an example of someone communicating in an "I've got this" way to this type of individual. They shared a 5-page document and a 15-minute video, asking for feedback. I know the "I'm too busy" individual well and they will either never reply, or it will be added to a to-do list and end up being pushed back for a long time.

In these sorts of situations, this is what I'd recommended:

  • Condense what you're trying to communicate and create a much shorter video. Sometimes you need to record it twice.
  • Put a bullet point list of TL;DR (too long, didn't read) points that someone can quickly skim through without watching the video or reading the document.

The "I can only handle one thing at a time" individual

An excellent example of this is sending chat messages to an individual in Slack. Maybe you'll ask them 3 separate questions at different times during your workday. When they eventually do respond to you, they only see the 3rd message and miss the first two.

In these situations, if I write a second message, I'll instead edit the first message and ask my questions in bullet points. That way, it's less likely they'll miss anything.

The "I can only have this type of discussion in person" individual

Discussions in person can be a great way to discuss especially complex issues. But they can take a lot of time, and scheduling can be difficult if their calendar is busy. At the end of the day, sometimes you have to book that meeting to get the communication through.

Other tips for communication

  • If you are writing your communication:
    • Re-read what you've written a few times, simplify what you're trying to say, and remove excess words and sentences.
    • Use bullet points when possible if you are trying to outline multiple things.
    • Install an app such as Grammarly to help fix spelling and grammar. Paid versions also help you simplify what you're trying to say.
  • If you are recording audio/video:
    • Try to condense what you're trying to say to keep the message as quick as possible. I aim for no more than 5 minutes.
    • Share visuals on your video if you're talking through something that could be aided in this way.
    • Bullet point the TL;DR (too long, didn't read) list with the video if you're concerned they won't watch it.
  • If you are on a video call:
    • Share a visual agenda at the start of the video call.
    • Share visuals if it helps.
    • Follow up the video call with the action points or decisions made in the call.
  • If you've picked up a way an individual likes to communicate with you, communicating with them in a reciprocal way can prove helpful.
  • Try communicating differently to individuals until you find one that works.
  • Consider what really matters to the individual. There may be a bunch of detail you do not need to include.


About Ben Sinclair

Hey! I'm Ben. I’m a Christian, husband, father, son, friend, writing a book and I work at I'm passionate about finance and technology. These writings are for me, however, maybe they’ll be interesting to others. Thanks for stopping by!