Telecommuting is now common in many of today’s workplaces. While this flexible work option offers benefits for employees, it often requires major management changes. In particular, if you’ve recently begun managing telecommuters, you may find your communication patterns with them differing from those with traditional in-office workers.
Since the bulk of communication between telecommuters and their managers happens via email, it’s essential for you, the manager, to understand how to use this communication medium effectively. To avoid miscommunications during your venture into managing telecommuters, here are three tips for using this communication medium in the most effective manner.
Tend to Subject Lines
An email subject line should briefly summarize the intent of an email message. If an email is urgent and should be read immediately, include the word URGENT at the beginning followed by the topic of the message. While this may seem like common sense, many professionals misuse subject lines or simply don’t use them, setting the communication up for failure before the email is even read.
Be Clear on Meanings
Sarcasm and playful banter are often lost in translation in email communication. To avoid seriously offending a telecommuter or majorly confusing them, stick to professional topics and save the jokes for phone or in-person conversations. If you’re sending a message with a meaning you think may be misinterpreted, discuss it over the phone rather than through an email to avoid confusion.
Also, in each email, be specific on the actions you expect the telecommuter to take. For example, if you want to receive a quick message from the telecommuter saying the email was received and read, clearly state this at a prime location within the email. This will avoid you wondering if the message was received and will avoid confusion by the telecommuter regarding which actions should be taken.
Avoid Friday Task Lists
Few things can destroy a weekend faster for employees than receiving an email late Friday afternoon from management including a laundry list of issues regarding their work. This form of email is particularly damaging for telecommuters because they’ll have access to their work email at home and will be more likely to dwell on the message all weekend.
If you need to pass along any communication to telecommuters regarding required work improvements or requests for upcoming projects, send them on Thursday or earlier in the week. Sending out a harsh email directly before the weekend is careless and cruel and will lead to resentment from the telecommuter.
As more managers allow telecommuting in their offices, the ways in which they communicate with employees will forever be altered. Email communication is quickly replacing traditional in-office discussions, opening the door for vast miscommunications if not used properly. By being clear on the meanings of every word sent via email and by remaining conscious of the effect your messages will have on recipients, you’ll avoid many common miscommunications to increase the success of telecommuting in your business.