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Avoid Communication Confusion

Challenges and Solutions Communicating in a Mobile Environment.

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Working in a mobile environment entails using a variety of methods for communicating with co-workers and clients. Each of these methods involve challenges for communication and it's important to know how to cope with these challenges and prevent communication confusion.

Consider the various methods of communication and the challenges involved with each method.

Email/Instant Messaging:


With any written communication it's important to remember that information needs to be presented clearly and concisely. In order to avoid confusion and even animosity, people must be careful with what they write and how they write it.

Problem:

  • Tone is hard to distinguish in written materials compared to talking face-to-face. Careful choice of words and phrasing can be the difference between working smoothly with co-workers and causing grief.
  • Body language is not possible in written communication, so it may be unclear what your intention may be if you are not clear. Using "Smiley's" and other cute graphics don't cut it in the professional world and serve only to demonstrate that the writer is perhaps not serious about the issue at hand.
  • Writing a memo or replying to one may involve more in-depth writing and a longer response than ordinary talking would require.

Solution:
Whenever you receive an email or memo and it seems you can't word a response properly in writing, it's time to make a phone call or arrange an onsite visit.

Don't let unclear writing become a reason for remote work problems to occur.

Phone Calls:


Verbal communication is preferable over written communication, especially when lengthy or complicated responses are required.

Problem:

  • A negative issue with this method of communication is that there is no visual interaction and miscommunication can result.
  • Tone of voice can affect the exchange of information.

Solution:

  • Any time you are involved in a phone call whether it is a call between two people, or a conference call make sure that you have no distractions at either end. Difficulty hearing what is said has been known to cause more problems during phone calls than any other issue.
  • Schedule your phone calls when you know you won't have background distractions and for the people onsite, make sure there are no background noises that will interfere with the call as well.

Video Conferences:

Gaining in popularity and usage, video conferencing allow people to communicate and avoid many problems that occur in the above methods. Video conferences can provide a more interactive means of communication and exchange of ideas.

Problem:

  • Connection times are too slow
  • Remote employee's computer doesn't support the video conference software
  • Remote employee does not have the right tools (i.e. web cam or software) to allow for two way communication.
  • Participating in a web conference when only one party sees the other can be very difficult and make it more difficult to ensure that the message is presented well.

Solution:
Ensure that remote workers have access to software and mobile gear such as web cameras will make video conferences successful for all parties.

In-person:


The best and most successful method of communication is of course face-to-face. While we ideally dream that remote workers may not need to ever set foot in the corporate office, it's just not realistic to expect that.

Problem:
It is not always possible for the remote worker to get to the main office due to distance or other obstacles in place.

Solution:
Supervisors can arrange to visit the remote worker's home office or a location can be chosen that is a mid-way point for both remote worker and Supervisor to meet.

For companies to avoid communication problems, it's important to set out in all Remote Work Agreements the methods of communication that will be used, the frequency of communications and have alternatives in place if there seem to be problems with the chosen methods.

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