Communication in the Remote Work Era

Recently my former co-worker Theresa tweet-asked about remote work and communication:

My reply to the tweet would be a bold yes!

Written and async communication are key in companies that are distributed across different timezones or that allow more flexible working hours.

In general keeping the relevant people in the loop (updated) and including them in the decision making process is quite important when working remotely.

Useful information must be available for others to consult at any time and it shouldn't be lost when people leave the company.

A Practical Example

I have been working remotely for three+ years now and written and async communication have become the normality for me.

PSPDFKit hires within ±6 hours of the UTC timezone so that there is always overlap and folks can discuss things on a videocall or pair if necessary. That said most of the work is done asynchronously and everybody does their best to communicate in written form with Basecamp projects, GitHub issues and Google Docs.

Important decisions are taken during a weekly team meeting or a proposal phase.

Slack is used for chatting, sharing the start/end of the day message (written stand-up), ask detailed questions or for help.

Inevitably some discussions start on Slack too, and that is fine!

Avoiding private conversations (DMs) and discussing matters in public channels (possibly using threads) is effectively enabling people to join the conversation later (async communication).

Normally topical or projects-specific channels help to reduce the noise and keep the discussion log fairly clean and easy to follow.

It it also important to recognize when it is time to stop discussing things on Slack and schedule a meeting or start a Google Docs to gather feedback.

My KUDOS rule

You get my KUDOS for communicating well if you:

  • Keep it simple but comprehensive
  • Use a medium and vocabulary that is accessible to everybody regardless of their timezone, expertise and experience
  • Don't take anything for granted
  • Over-communicate and talk with other teams
  • Slack for sharing cat gifs (socializing).

Just kidding, Slack is a great place to start a conversation but eventually things need to be written down. Write a report.