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Written Communication for Remote Teams: Definition & FAQ

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Good written communication in the workplace is a top priority. Writing skills are essential to transmit requests, applications, reports, notices, etc. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies introduced their employees to remote work. Since then, companies had no choice but to use various virtual platforms to maintain online conversations with their teams.

It is crucial to know the rules that determine written communication in the workplace. We hope that this article will help you to understand it all better.

Summary

  • Have you ever had communication problems at work? In this article, we will give you some tips on how to communicate effectively and overview the main remote communication challenges most organizations are facing nowadays.
  • Of course, the absence of employees in the office can cause some communication problems. This is why we want to tell you the secrets of written communication management to keep all the team members motivated.
  • Also, we would like to share with you the names of some leading platforms for remote teams written communication, and the communication tasks that the HR department deals with to achieve its goals.

What you need to know about Written Communication in the remote work team

Often, when working remotely, there are some misunderstandings between co-workers. Maybe it has happened to you when you have taken the time and effort to inform your colleague via notes, but the message wasn’t read by the recipient, and misunderstandings occur. Here are the secrets and benefits of good written communication.

What is written communication for remote teams?

We have been living for years in the so-called Information Age. At the same time, the presence of technology has been advancing little by little over the different tasks of daily life (1). A few years ago, technological work tools were expensive, difficult to configure, and only some people had access to them. Today, on the other hand, they are flexible and accessible to many.

In recent years, thanks to the Internet, the professional training and remote communication between companies employees and executives has grown a lot.

Thus, many organizations began to be interested in incorporating online learning systems for their human resources and professional training areas. In addition to replacing the face-to-face way of working, it functioned as a more cost-effective alternative from an economic point of view.

Why is written communication in remote work so important for the company?

Written communication is very important for taking advantage of good business planning and training for the new opportunities of the digital age. However, the increasing use of technology in the workplace has challenged employees’ confidence regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of online platforms. This is why the best software will never be a substitute for human wisdom and flexibility (2).

For a good functioning of technological systems, you must have a good communication with your co-workers.

Of course, oral and written communication are fundamental to the effective achievement of this goal, and any progress or hindrance in this respect has a direct impact on the overall organizational process (2). Furthermore, numerous studies concluded that the Internet did not provide the effects and results that companies expected.

In short, if the communication model is not solid, there cannot be a solid learning strategy, nor a good pedagogical method of labor education.

How to communicate effectively in a remote team?

There are different written communication formats. However, one of the formats that cause the most doubts and errors is documents. Here are the best tips for creating quality documents, and what you should include in it.

  • Place and date.
  • To whom it is addressed.
  • Entry (presentation).
  • Development (body of the text).
  • Conclusion (closing).
  • Farewell.

The parts of the document in detail

Parts of the documentWriting modeExamples as a guide (not as unique models)
Place and dateA place whete it’s issued and the date. Both are structured like this
: Place (city, state) Date (day, month, year).
Mexico, D.F., NOVEMBER 20, 2009.
To whom it is addressedThe title of the person, his/her full name, and the position he/she holds in his/her job (company, institution, etc.) Mr. Juan Solís Hernández Executive Manager of Gamesa.
EnterThe first line of each paragraph should be indented. Five spaces or a space given by the tabulator is adequate. Avoid starting verbs with gerunds: considering, requesting, requesting, etc.– By means of the present
– By this means
DevelopmentThe body of the text should be clear, explaining why the document has been written.– Therefore.
– Likewise.
– In this way.
– After the previous sentences, a comma is always placed.
ConclusionIt refers to the closing of the document and it is where we can include thanks such as the confidence given, the support provided, etc.– Without more for the moment…
– Thank you in advance…
– Waiting for your answer
FarewellThese are brief references placed before the name and signature of the person writing the document. At the end of a document, you can add some references in which abbreviations are used, but you should not use postscripts.– Yours faithfully
– Yours truly
– Affectionately
Abbreviations:
– c.c.p.: with a copy for (put the name of the person and then the position, or position)
– c.c.p.a.: with copy of the file
-c.c.p.e.: with a copy of the document.
The abbreviations above are written in lowercase and in a smaller font than the rest of the text

Table based on the text of Cassany, D.

What to avoid in documents

  1. Repetitions of words or ideas: in the present document, I attach here the information…
  2. Avoid too many words in saying something. Being too wordy in the official documentation is unnecessary and counterproductive.
  3. Never talk about “you”. It doesn’t matter if the document is addressed to a superior who is your friend. Thus, any work text requires a certain level of formality that should not be forgotten or overlooked.
  4. We should use a series of verbs that suggest something, but always avoid expressing our emotions or personal situations. Verbs such as the following are appropriate:
  • Inform.
  • Propose.
  • Communicate.
  • Elaborate.
  • Manifest.
  • Affirm.
  • Request.
  • Consider.
  • Detail.
  • Exhort.

Verbs that have emotive meanings and are not desirable in a formal document

  • Demand.
  • Beg.
  • Entreat.
  • Want.
  • Wish.

What are the challenges of remote written team communication?

Teams, where most or all members are telecommuting, rely heavily on regular electronic communication to build team collaboration, trust, and transparency. However, some studies have proven that teams working remotely face more significant communication challenges than face-to-face teams (Hertel et al., 2005) (3).

After the pandemic, many companies started to implement more home office days or rather directly rented their offices and moved to a 100% remote mode. Thus, the challenges of written communication were multiplied.

When communicating electronically, workers tend to share less information with their colleagues, and in some cases have difficulty interpreting and understanding the information they receive. There is less feedback and review than when teams are working together in the same place.

The challenges involved in written communication in a remote work team

  • Workers and managers must make extra efforts to ensure that their communication is effective, messages are clear and provide a continuous flow of information.
  • Increasing international contacts between countries, technological development and scientific advances multiply the relationships, documents and languages used.

The classic challenges of corporate written communication

  • Public authorities legislate on communication: they oblige companies to inform consumers, use certain languages, publish certain data, etc.
  • Commercial competition has reached aggressive levels and requires companies to offer quality texts to increasingly educated and trained customers.

Written communication between areas and leadership

Written communication is fundamental for companies, and everything that is important is written down. This includes contracts, working regulations, procedures, reports, letters, etc. For this reason, in large companies, there are specific language assistance units: language services, language offices or language consultancies. These groups manage the internal and external communication of the organization. Unlike large companies, small companies may resort to external professionals, such as translators, journalists, public relations officers, linguists, to solve specific needs as they arise.

Nevertheless, the ability to realize the human potential of any organization ultimately rests on the leadership factor.

Therefore, no matter how good the human resources plans and procedures in an organization are, people are needed to mobilize others (4).

What should a successful written telecommuting communication look like, and how should it be carried out?

In general, writings with high readability, i.e. those that are easier to understand, are related to the following resources:

  • Organization of ideas in paragraphs separated by semicolons.
  • Use of short sentences (around 20-25 words), due to the limited working memory of readers.
  • Use of simple sentences, with moderate subordination; absence of complex constructions with cultured relative clauses (whose, on which) or gerunds.
  • Use of the person: the introduction of personal voices in the text adds interest.
  • Use of elements that awaken the human interest of the reader: proper names of person and place.
  • Patterns of the discourse: admirations, rhetorical questions, suspensive points. This type of linguistic resource brings the written text closer to oral dialogue.
  • Use of varied typography: bold, italics, capital letters, graphics, etc.

How to facilitate remote team collaboration?

To ensure that communication is effective and helps collaboration in telecommuting teams:

  • Establish a centralized archive of all major changes and updates to internal policies and processes! If your company does not have a culture of documentation, this can help you a lot and be a great culture changer. Also, one of the challenges, when workers are working remotely, is keeping everyone effectively informed about the latest changes in the organization.
  • Establish communication standards. There may be standards at the individual level, such as people’s preferred response time, writing style and tone. Next, these may include the length and level of detail of messages, response time, and the use and tolerance of humour.
  • Don’t limit communication to content.
  • Take advantage of the full spectrum of communication options available.
  • Make sure workers know when and how they can contact their direct supervisors. Clear communication about the best times and ways to do this is essential for teleworkers. So, depending on the urgency or priority of the call, there may be several options for them to find the most appropriate way to communicate.
  • Detect biases. Communication between remote teams carries the risk of being biased. In turn, this includes, for example, which workers always communicate with each other; which employees are silent; what are the most frequent connections between team members; and how smaller teams exchange information.
  • Offer encouragement and support .
Some tips for good remote communication among employees. (Source: Abril Daurat/ Gitnux)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of written communication in remote teams?

Advantages

  • Authority.
  • Accuracy.
  • Permanence.
  • Wide coverage.
  • Best for difficult or complicated messages.
  • Can be reviewed.
  • Useful when a record needs to be kept for later reference.
  • Can be carefully planned, studied and errors eliminated before transmission.

Disadvantages

  • More likely to distract the reader.
  • Not effective for emergencies.
  • Delays in obtaining approval for an urgent query or task.
  • Can be misinterpreted.
  • Lacks confidentiality.
  • Late feedback.

Existing tools for written communication between co-workers

All the following applications are suitable for both desktop and mobile devices. And, best of all, they are all free!

Slack

Read more about Slack.

Download Slack for your desktop now!

Telegram

Download Telegram for your desktop now!

Gmail

Read more about Gmail.

Create a Gmail account now!

Google Drive

Read more about Google Drive.

Download Google Drive on your computer now!

WhatsApp

Download WhatsApp web on your desktop now!

Asana

Read more about Asana.

Download Asana now on your desktop!

What examples exist within remote written communication?

Because of the imposition of confinement in 2020, companies were challenged. In the case of the global consumer electronics company Streaming Products (US, UK, Netherlands, Denmark, China), all meetings were moved to the Internet, both team and office meetings. In this way, the Slack platform continued to be used as a primary communication tool, even with a morning greeting from several team members (3).

What types of written communication does HR conduct to achieve its goals?

  • Periodic online surveys.
  • Creation of a specific site on the organization’s website, including information, resources and internal policy updates.
  • Dissemination of information on when and how direct supervisors can be contacted, disseminated to teleworkers.

Interventions that can be made by the HR department in a company to improve the quality of its written communication:

  • First, the organizational structure. It is composed of reorganization tasks of organization charts, and configuration of communication channels (formal and informal, meetings, circulars, etc.). It may also include regulation of production processes and IT resources.
  • Secondly, human resources or personnel. Above all, it includes selection tasks, training and advice on written communication and writing.
  • Thirdly, linguistic style. It includes tasks of elaboration of the linguistic registers used in the organization with the development of regulations, forms or text models.
  • Finally, documents and individual communications. It contains the intervention on particular and fungible communications with translation, interpretation, correction or writing of texts.

Conclusion

Ultimately, an organization is made up of a group of people working together to achieve a single goal. Therefore, if you have come this far, you will know the importance of good communication between employees! Especially when working remotely, for a company to grow, good dialogue between co-workers is essential.

Misunderstandings often arise because of a lack of good communication. Other negative effects are also possible, such as the company lacking a corporate culture, or a lack of leaders who communicate and favour the good predisposition of employees. Now you have all the tips to implement good written communication in your work and create a good working environment. Don’t waste any more time, go to Slack, Telegram, or whatever application! Start your virtual workspace with your co-workers!

References

1. Aliste Fuentes,C. Communication Model for Distance Learning. [Internet]. Department of Audiovisual Communication and Advertising. Autonomous University of Barcelona.
Source

2. Cassany,D. Written communication in business: research, interventions and examples. [Internet] Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona) ANAGRAMAS volume 1, number 2 pp. 33-52. July 2003
Source

3. Teleworking during and after the COVID-19 pandemic- Practical guide. [Internet]. International Labour Office – Geneva: ILO, 2020
Source

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