Collaborating remotely is a big part of life now, and it will continue like that far into the future. Just look at the recent headlines from companies like Twitter (WFH forever, anyone?), Facebook, and many other tech companies who are letting employees work from home through 2020. It’s clear that the convenience will linger in people’s minds and, just when we feel we can go back to “normal,” we’ll ask ourselves, “Why did we ever do it differently?”
Most people in the tech industry should be familiar with some kind of remote collaboration. But how will other industries migrate to remote work? I wouldn’t know. My only experience outside of tech was a ten-year stint as an English instructor, which preceded but overlapped with my most recent ten years, during which time I founded my own start-up, directed five start-ups while earning a master of science degree, and was a contractor for top companies like Disney Interactive, Google, and Adobe. So from this experience I can say, yes, remote collaboration can feel—even to me and in 2020, no less—a little scary.
Sure, having crying babies, a handful of cats, and underwear out on an unmade bed can be problematic for those top-level work meetings, but most people will understand—like Mark Zuckerberg speaking to CNN about the flexibility of remote work at Facebook during a global pandemic. If they don’t understand, then you’re working for the wrong people. And awkwardness will too pass.
So find good lighting, try to keep it clean and professional, smile more, and do your best. That’s it for that camera fear during remote collaboration. However, let’s focus on being more sensitive—but still very specific—in our writing to our direct reports, coworkers, and fellow executives. One’s tone or message can be misinterpreted or misunderstood so much more easily in writing!
Learning how to space out and communicate your action items in emails—politely, even to people you don’t manage directly—is key:
- As a contractor for Google, I was specific in my email messages to my counterpart in Japan so we could have a faster turnaround on Google Play email campaigns sent to millions of people around the world every single week. For example, these campaigns had to go through an entire pipeline and be scheduled by the end of day on a Friday because of a new Game of Thrones episode airing on HBO Now.
- Writing in caps and red text can help you be more specific, but it can be seen as rude, so be careful. I suggest matching the communication style of your manager or the director who designated you as the lead for the project. You should communicate like he or she would—and so I did at companies like Disney and Adobe, where I began writing action items in caps and all red to my team and peers, as well as the key highlights I sent to higher-ups like senior directors and VPs.
Be sensitive and adapt your communication style. There is no reason to not combine your skills, your different life experiences, and your learnings to communicate more accurately, more transparently, and more passionately during remote collaboration.
This is precisely why I started Startup Delivery. We all need to collaborate more clearly and transparently, especially while working remotely. Startup Delivery helps you create, maintain, and grow your start-up or small business. My plan is to help you turn that small local business into a small global business. Let’s collaborate remotely and honestly and help the struggling start-up or small/local business not only maintain its progress but also grow as we foster the creation of new ideas—even in hard times and while managing with tight budgets.
Whatever’s on your mind, I believe there’s an opportunity somewhere in there for us to collaborate or work together remotely.
Pablo F. Rosero
Pablo F. Rosero, MSc is the founder of Startup Delivery. Schedule a call at https://bit.ly/startupdelivery, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with him on LinkedIn.