Here's when you should Slack, email or call an employee

Let's talk about ... well, talking.

Last week, I spoke with leaders of companies that have always operated remotely to learn their secrets to success and I realized it all boiled down to one thing: Good, clear communication.

First, the good news:

We have an abundance of tools at our disposal to talk to each other without being in the same space.

Now, the bad news:

We have an abundance of tools at our disposal to talk to each other without being in the same space.

Having so many forms of communication means that messages can get lost if you are focusing on email while a co-worker is more of a Slack user. Then there’s the frustration of staring at your screen waiting for a response and wondering if enough time has passed to give a “friendly nudge.” And of course, there’s that message that left you perturbed when the sender meant nothing by it.

Communicating remotely can be a minefield.

Here’s the thing:

It’s all about being as clear, direct and transparent as possible. We’re all adults, we can handle it.

Set a team standard.

Create a communication game plan with your team.

Determine the best way you all want to communicate – and this can change depending on the circumstance.

For instance, maybe the majority of all conversations happen in an open Slack channel so anyone who has to be offline for a while can catch up quickly. But if there’s a problem or disagreement over something, a video meeting is scheduled to hash it out. Set the ground rules and expectations and hold each other accountable.

One company I spoke with had a team communication charter that spelled out how long you have to give someone to respond to a Slack before sending a reminder.

Tell people where you are.

They don’t need to know about every bathroom break or child tantrum that has pulled you away from your computer. But if you are going to be away from your work space for a long(ish) period of time, put up an away message/emoji on Slack or give your co-workers and managers a heads up so they know.

Don’t overly rely on email.

Email is convenient, but it’s not the best for continuous communication, one expert told me. If you need to have a back-and-forth discussion, set up a phone or video meeting.

Be as transparent as possible.

Making sure everyone is on the same page and up to date on a project’s progress is important. Some companies keep most of their instant messages public to all employees so people can always review what’s going on. Others have weekly meetings to set priorities and then post updates for their co-workers at the end of the week.

Whatever your tactic, make sure everyone is giving clear objectives and regular updates on progress and goals.

By Kathryn Vasel, CNN Business, first published on on April 28, 2020