May 6, 2016
Tech companies are well-known for their remote worker policies. And while the flexibility of working from home allows for a wide range of benefits, the lack of a physical building creates a problem when it comes to office culture. What happens to office culture when there is no office?
More and more IT professionals are transitioning from the traditional office to the home office. There is even a large amount of people hoping to get into this type of position in the future. In fact, a survey of health IT professionals conducted by HealthITJobs.com, found that 40.9 percent of respondents said the option to work from home is the most important perk a company can offer.
Although working from home can improve work-life balance, it can make you feel isolated and unfamiliar at times. When you work from home, communication is the cornerstone of culture. But it is also more complicated when you aren’t faced to face. How and when should you communicate with your team? Your supervisor? What’s acceptable?
Here are some communication tips to keep in mind when it comes to remote office culture:
Pick the Right Medium
In the office, your team members and supervisor are only a short walk away. You know you can email them and get a quick reply because you know when they are at their desk. You can also communicate with them regularly in weekly meetings to cover any other communication gaps.
At home, the personal aspect is completely removed. However, you have endless communication tools to choose from. You can email, call, text, chat, or use communication apps and internal project management tools. But which one should you use, and when?
The best guide for determining which communication method is appropriate is time. Whether your team is spread between the office and home or if everyone works remotely, each person may be working on a different schedule. When it comes to communication while working from home, think about how you would like to be contacted in that situation, what makes the most sense for the recipient(s) of the message, and obviously, pay attention to the time.
When you step out of the office to take a phone call or to get lunch, you probably don’t alert the entire IT team. But when you work from home, keeping everyone updated about where you are and when you are available is key to keeping communication lines flowing.
If there is someone available to direct questions to, special instructions on projects that may come across your virtual desk while you’re away or you can be reached for urgent matters by some other means, make that information available to your team. Don’t hold up productivity by just going MIA.
If you work different hours than key members of your team, contacting them can be a real challenge. And if they miss your emails on a regular basis, setting you another day behind, you are going to need to find a way around this issue.
Instead of letting time zones dictate your communication schedule, set your emails up to send when you know the recipient will be available to read them. Almost every email application allows you to schedule emails to send at a specific time. And add-ons, like Boomerang or Right Inbox, make keeping up with scheduled emails simple, by reminding you to follow-up or even set up recurring emails.
Now your emails will be at the top of your coworker’s inbox when they start working. Include a disclaimer in the email that you won’t be working when they get the email, so they don’t expect an immediate response from you.
Every tech office has their own unique culture. IT professionals at a startup behave and interact differently than those who work for a consulting firm. When you switch jobs, you don’t hang out at your coworker’s desk or expect free snacks because that’s how your previous office worked — you observe your team members to learn what is appropriate in the new office culture.
Do the same in the office chat. When working from home, chat is most likely your main source of communication. The atmosphere will probably be light, but wait and observe before you start posting unwelcome GIFs, emojis, and jokes that don’t land. Learn the rules of communication, so you can engage with your team in a way that fits with the established culture.
Communication is even more important for IT teams who operate outside of a traditional working environment. Pay attention to how and when you communicate, to keep projects running smoothly and keep working relationships on good terms.
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