Within small business offices, and large conglomerate headquarters alike, hordes of co-workers worked together to resolve issues, move projects forward, and manage expectations. The hustle and bustle of everyday workflow steadily relied on the fruitful interpersonal connection between individuals from various departments, leaders and supervisors, and team members. Now, as many industries continue to engage in remote work, achieving this same level of prosperous communication requires different facets. 

In the digitally-based workplace, working well with others is integral to achieving goals, maintaining efficiency and productivity, and moving a company forward. As a well-seasoned leader in many positions within the pharmaceutical industry, I have gained the experience needed to communicate effectively with teams digitally, remotely, and unconventionally. Below, I share my tips for ensuring remote efficiency, success, and streamlined operations.

Say What You Mean To Say

Within various positions in the pharmaceutical industry, I often found myself leading a large team of industry leaders in the market launch of a new product or treatment. While leading in-person meetings and think sessions, I often relied on the non-verbal cues presented by body language, facial changes, and subtle movements to lend insights regarding my co-workers’ opinions. Sometimes, it wasn’t what they said, but rather, how they said it that gave me the needed insight to move forward. While these non-verbal cues can be helpful within any in-person workplace atmosphere, they can become lost in a digital workspace environment.

Thus, for any employee conducting work from home, I recommend taking a proactive approach to communication. Instead of minimizing your thoughts about something, and relying on body language to fill in the gaps, consider verbalizing your entire stance concisely, honestly, and openly. In video chat sessions, or via team chats, shrugging your shoulders ever so slightly to signify uncertainty will undoubtedly be lost. Limitations in technology, outside interruptions, and the general weariness of utilizing non-traditional sources for teams previously in-person can create digital environments not entirely conducive to picking up subtle messaging. Thus, in order to convey your authentic opinion or feeling, make sure to speak up.

Similarly, social constructs and tonality of conversation can be lost with limited technology. In a workplace digital chat, co-workers may not be able to pick up on irony, sarcasm, and other non-direct verbalizations of thought. Thus, refrain from your usual brand of humor or sarcasm, as it may be mistaken within the digital sphere. Instead, focusing on conveying your thoughts accurately, concisely, and in a way that can’t potentially be misconstrued. 

For leaders in the digital workplace, ensuring that your team can confidently convey their authentic feelings and opinions is vastly important. Thus, proactively share the importance of this concept with your team, and set the example by following suit yourself. In order to effectively lead remotely, you’ll have to have the proverbial whole story. Thus, instill confidence in your team, and let them know that their authentic thoughts are valued.

Relay Direct Instructions And Expectations

As a young leader, I found myself wondering if I was too “bossy”, and sometimes sugar coated direct instructions in order to appear less authoritative. When leading teams of more experienced and older leaders in their own niches, I was guilty of proverbially beating around the bush at times. By simply leading my co-workers to a conclusion or task, instead of telling them to do it, I thought I would create a more collaborative experience. However, I found that this was sometimes misleading, ineffective, and entirely too time consuming. 

When leading a team to a new product launch, I discovered that I had to convey my desires concisely as an authoritative figure, especially when it came to ethical considerations. With progressive views and ideas, I asked for input, but had to relay direct instructions and expectations if I wanted certain things to fall in line my way. By utilizing this approach, I streamlined processes for my team members, and effectively communicated instructions. Not only did this make my job easier, my co-workers appreciated the idea of knowing exactly what they had to do. With concise instruction, they were confident in their tasks in my absence, and could plan their days accordingly.

In the digital workplace atmosphere, concisely relaying direct instructions is more important than ever. With limited oversight and management, employees in the digital sphere often have to autonomously complete more tasks than in a traditional in-person setting. Thus, these employees need to know exactly what to do, what they are expected to produce, and what resources they will need in order to be successful. 

In order to convey your instructions concisely, tell your team exactly what you want them to accomplish, relay concise measurable goals, and provide timelines. Instead of suggesting action with terms like “it would be great if..”, relay concise expectations measured by task completion. Though even the most seasoned leader may worry about coming across too frank or overbearing, employees in a digital environment will appreciate this direct communication, and will be able to enact action in order to complete tasks autonomously.

Exercise Patience, Empathy, and Respect

When working on various breakthrough cancer treatments, there was an underlying connection between my entire team. Everyone involved in the treatment in any capacity collectively wanted to help others. With this base motivation in mind, each individual worked diligently to accomplish their needed parts of the collective goal. Without the success of one individual, the entire project would not be able to move forward. Though we had the same goal, our individual experiences often varied. If my assignment on a particular project was straightforward and relatively easy, it didn’t necessarily mean that my co-workers weren’t struggling. Thus, one of the most important lessons I learned as a leader was to show empathy, patience, and understanding. I also recognized the power of ensuring that my entire team bestowed these considerations upon other members. These ideals are also vastly important in the digital workplace.

When working from home, your tech knowledge and circumstances may elicit a wonderful experience. However, this may not be the case for all of your co-workers. Other people may have different circumstances that prohibit them from achieving efficiency, such as young children at home, or the responsibility of caring for ill family members. Additionally, not everyone is inherently tech-savvy, and co-workers may sometimes need additional time to get used to new digital platforms, communication methods, or ways of doing things. Try to be patient with these co-workers as they navigate their new professional landscape. As long as their intentions and motivations are to excel, they’re still on your team, and deserve the opportunity to do so. In order to maximize outcomes, proactively ensure that your team is able to utilize all needed programs, functions, and platforms. Assist any struggling team members with the infrastructure needed to succeed.

Additionally, in the vein of understanding and empathy, it is important to understand that your output directly affects others’ ability to complete their tasks. Within a collaborative project, other team members may be held up by not receiving completed pieces from co-workers, or otherwise impacted by the delayed follow-up of team members. Thus, it is important to respect deadlines and completion timelines for all collaborative projects. By respecting these deadlines, you’ll help co-workers who need your completed pieces of the puzzle to successfully complete their own. This is the best, and only, way to keep the proverbial ball rolling in a digital workplace atmosphere.

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