30 tips for successful communication as a remote worker

As a Remote Worker I’m always looking for tips and tricks and checklists to make my, ahem, remote working life easier. I’ve made a cheap Wide Angle Lens so I could better see my co-workers, created a robot cart so they won’t forget me, tested 4G cards so I can be online anywhere, switched to Hi-Def Video Cameras for web chat, written articles on how to Collaborate with Remote Employees with Office Communicator 2007 R2 and Phil Haack and I made the HanselPortal, for virtual camaraderie.

Yesterday Jonathan Tuliani, a remote worker in Dublin (or maybe we’re remote) on the Azure team sent out a great list of tips for Remote Communications. He and Satya Nadella from Bing and myself and the many other non-Redmond workers sometimes struggle to be effective remotely.

Here’s their list of tips, reprinted from an internal mail with permission.
Show consideration

* Set up calls at mutually workable hours. Avoid blocking calendars with local

meetings during shared hours. Fridays are often a poor choice.
* Start on time. Leaders should set up the bridge or Live Meeting before the call starts. Attendees should always show up on time.
* If you can’t make it, cancel or decline least 18 hours in advance. Changing your plans to attend a non-existent meeting is very frustrating. Think carefully if the recipient will see your cancellation in time (they may be asleep).
* Assume the best. If the other team isn’t meeting your expectations, it’s probably because of a lack of awareness or a misunderstanding – not incompetence. Clarify and confirm before drawing conclusions or judging.

Use the right tools

* Choose the right tool. Office Communicator is great for 1-1s and small group meetings. LiveMeeting is usually better for large group meetings.
* Use video. Seeing faces increases the quality of the communication. It also helps create focus, preventing people from getting distracted, having side conversations, checking their email, etc.
* In a group, use a RoundTable. As well as enabling video, the noise-cancelling mics it has are excellent. Make sure all your meeting rooms have one, including the satellite mics.
* On your own, use a headset. The sound quality for both parties is far superior.
* Don’t use your laptop microphone. Laptop microphones are poor quality and pick up noise from your laptop’s fan, disk, and keyboard. Use the mic on your webcam or, better yet, an external mic.
* Be a black-belt Ninja with the tools. Make sure you can set up and join meetings quickly so that they start on time. Learn all the available features. Set up time to sit with your local team to practice and explore.

Be Heard and Understood

* Speak clearly and slowly. The connections aren’t always clear.
* Be precise and concise. Help to keep the meeting short and productive.
* Speak one at a time, otherwise no-one can be heard.
* Ask for confirmation that the callers heard everything clearly.
* Sit near the microphone, especially if your voice is soft.
* Ask for comments. It’s hard to break into the conversation over the phone.
* Avoid jargon and culture-specific phrases. English is not the first language of many people on our teams, and can also vary greatly across cultures.
* Meet face to face from time to time. Meeting in person builds your knowledge of each other’s mannerisms and communication style. Subsequent remote communications are much richer and misunderstandings rarer as a result.

Make meetings effective

* Pick the right forum.



30 tips for successful communication as a remote worker