A key part of managing or working in a remote team is the increased importance of communication. Regular and authentic communication helps you stay on the same page and keeps teams productive, cohesive and happy. And while email has always been a critical collaboration tool in the workplace, in the absence of seeing your team on a daily basis it becomes even more important to master. So with all of those words and information ping-ponging back and forth across our remote teams, here are some of my tops tips for effective email communication.
Make your subject line count
In the real estate of space where people consume email messages, the subject line is prime property! It’s not only the first chance you have to grab the reader’s attention, but also to convey meaningful information. So make sure you make the most of your subject line and be clear and specific about the topic of the email. Not only does it help your team prioritise the email's importance, it’s also useful for when you want to retrace your steps to a particular email, making it easier to find!
Poor example: Meeting agenda
Good example: For Review: 20 Apr Management Meeting Agenda
BLUF: Bottom Line Up Front
You’re either sending an email because you want someone to know something, or do something. So don’t write a mystery novel! Make sure your first sentence includes your bottom line up front (BLUF). In other words, get to the point first and provide the supporting reasoning afterward. An example of a BLUF could be; “I need your input by end-of-day this Friday to confirm the agenda for the 20 Apr Management Meeting.” This tactic is particularly useful when sending emails as people are more likely to skim.
Share work updates
Regular work updates are vital, especially when working remotely. Keep your team informed by letting them know every Monday what your plans are for the week and ask if they have any questions. An “update email” not only gives your remote team visibility into your priorities, but it creates a more collaborative and transparent workplace. You can also ask your team to send you similar weekly updates on what they've accomplished and their plans for the coming week.
Keep it informal
While short and sweet emails are always best, make sure your straightforward message doesn’t sound uptight or too formal. Keeping your team emails polite no matter how many—or few—words you write can be achieved by some simple tricks! Some great ones are using contractions and the odd exclamation mark, signing off with your first name initial, or simply say something nice like, “enjoy the rest of your week”. No matter what you’re saying, these tricks can improve the lightness of your email and create an instant connection that makes your team immediately feel comfortable and welcomed, even if only subconsciously.
Why not suggest or ask your team to add a headshot to their email signature? Showing your face adds a human element to emails and will help your remote workforce to connect and build better relationships with each other. However, if you’re making the decision to use a headshot in your company email signature, make sure you set some rules in terms of the size of the image in relation to the company logo and the type of headshot to use. Using an email signature generator such as Hub Spot, can do all the hard work for you and ensure consistency across email signatures.
Use a free spell-checker
Even though you probably graduated from school many moons ago, spelling still counts! Make it easy for your team to read and understand your emails by using a free spell-checker like Grammarly. Typos, spelling and grammar mistakes can be a huge distraction for your colleagues and ultimately lead to confusion!
Re-read your email
Sometimes we can get so caught up in our to-do list we don’t take the time to re-read our emails before hitting send. However, reading your email through the eyes of your team will help you send a more effective message and avoid any misunderstandings. Another trick is to actually read your email aloud, as what looks right on the page often sounds awkward and robotic out loud. And surely that counts as one of the perks of working remotely… No one can hear you talking to yourself!
The smallest gesture often means the most, especially in remote work scenarios when we’re working in solitude. By sending a thank you email and letting your team know that their contributions are valued, you’ll increase their sense of self-worth, which will in turn create a stronger, more connected remote team! You can also show your team how much you appreciate them by creating an email “shout out” to recognise an employee or team accomplishment.
Pick up the phone
While this isn’t a tip to help craft better work emails, it’s important to mention that nothing beats picking up the phone! Consider the three-email rule: if something isn’t resolved in three email exchanges or less, it’s best to make a phone call. Or if a fast response is needed, sending emails isn't a good move. Phone conversations can not only be more productive, but they will also help you to maintain a sense of connection with your team and ensure you’re more in tune to picking up any signals that may indicate someone is having a hard time.
By implementing these simple email techniques you can make communicating and collaborating with your remote colleagues much smoother!