Some coworkers and I recently collaborated on communication norms. The discussions began as an effort to add more remote inclusivity to meetings; we were all fully remote thanks to the COVID-19 global pandemic, but that would eventually change, leaving the bulk of our employee base working from one of three offices. When the time came, we didn’t want old habits to resurface and leave remote employees feeling “less than.”
Funny thing about communication, though: inclusive communication doesn’t differentiate between in-office or remote, or even which office. And it isn’t limited to meetings (although meetings are low-hanging fruit for anyone looking to improve how they work).
Rather, inclusive communication ensures that the recipient or attendee’s situation is considered and accommodated up front.
This can mean something as simple as:
- sending an off-hours email instead of a Slack message so someone isn’t pressured to respond (and also so they can find it later)
- writing “I need your answer by EOB Thursday” when you send your message on a Monday
- scheduling a meeting at a time when all offices are within their working hours (hint: 11am ET is the sweet spot for all of the US + UK)
- recording a video vs. scheduling a meeting
- recording an impromptu discussion that part of the team had so the rest of the team can get caught up
The list goes on, and they’re all little things that add up to a big difference.
Once our team realized this, we decided these norms could easily apply not just to meetings, but to any email, Slack message, even in person conversations.
“Remote inclusivity” wasn’t necessary anymore either, or at least we didn’t have to call it out specifically. That’s a bigger deal than you might think: when you don’t have to single out a specific group, but instead just treat them as every other person, it’s a very special feeling. Anyone who works full-time remote will understand what I mean by this.
So, work through these and think about how little tweaks in how you communicate can create an exponentially better environment for productivity, collaboration, and yes, culture.
- Consider your audience – Include the necessary people in your communication to promote transparency, efficiency and engagement. Let that audience inform the format and tone of your message.
- Choose your medium – Use the right communication channel based on the priority, urgency and complexity of your message.
- Communicate your purpose – Always define the purpose of your communication or meeting, and ensure everyone understands what’s expected of their response and/or participation.
- Check the tech – Make sure everyone has access to the tools you’re using. Set them up in advance to ensure audio/visual is clear and exercises are inclusive.
- Create space – Choose a format that empowers people with different personality types and communication styles to contribute comfortably and confidently.
- Cut distractions – Stay present and engaged during meetings. In person, reduce phone and laptop use. When remote, keep camera and mic on (if possible) and turn off notifications. Avoid making noises near speaker.
- Close with clarity – Always close with next steps and digitize for those not present.
Yes, running through this mental checklist for every meeting, email, Slack message and in-person conversation is more work. But like any muscle, with practice it’ll become automatic. Just think of the efficiency and clarity you’ll gain across the board: fewer meetings, less ambiguity, more productivity.
Hit me up on Twitter or LinkedIn if you’d like to chat through examples for any of these norms. And try out a couple today for yourself! Might I suggest adding #3 and #7 to your next email?
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