Communicating remotely often means communicating with people from other cultures which in turn leads to you having to adapt to foreign cultures and communication etiquette. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Be friendly (but not overly friendly).
In American culture especially, friendliness is required by the rules of professional politeness. Asking: “How are doing” or “How is your day going” can go a long way. If you get this kind of question, it’s better to go beyond the typical “I’m good”, or “I’m ok, thanks”. Say something more, either work-related or not, just to break the ice and get warmed up for the upcoming conversation. A better reply would be: “I’m good. Sorry if we seem a bit more tired than usual. Today has been a tough day for us. Hope you’re feeling good and energetic though.”
Americans also don’t like awkward silences so try to not just sit there speechless. Comment on whatever may be a good conversation starter. Asking people to tell you about their day, their plans, their interests (if you know what they are), commenting on the surroundings — anything goes if it helps you get the conversation going.
In a workplace situation, don’t shy away from opening up a dialogue. Ask questions, provide your opinions on things or simply acknowledge what the other person is saying with (“Ok, got it”, “I see”, “Sure”, “Alright” etc.)
2. Be excited
Just like being friendly, sounding excited and energetic is part of the American professional culture. You will often hear people say phrases like
I’m excited to hear your pitch
I’m looking forward to meeting with you
I loved your presentation
I can’t wait to start on that project
A good rule of thumb is to observe your workplace culture and mimic the level of energy that your colleagues exhibit but make sure that you don’t sound disinterested, low on energy, and apathetic. That will send some bad vibes to your co-workers.
3. Be grateful
Expressing gratitude is very important in American culture, especially when you’re about to end the conversation or ask someone to do something. Certain phrases will come in handy such as:
Thank you for taking the time to meet with us
I appreciate (your input, your contribution)
If you have any (suggestions, advice etc.), I will hugely appreciate it
Thanks so much / Thanks, team! /Thank you for your time etc.
4. Be concise
When it comes to written communication, it is especially important to keep your message clear, well-structured, and concise so as not to waste everyone’s time. Whether you’re writing a quick slack message or a full-blown email, your message should always contain a detailed description of the problem/reason for your writing and a well-formulated call to action. You can learn a lot about business communication in this article analyzing one of Steve Jobs’ emails.
5. Be timely
It is important to provide timely feedback. If you aren’t able to give an answer to a certain question or provide a solution to the problem, at least acknowledge that you got the message.
“Thank you for letting me know about the problem. It may take me a few days to work through it and find the solution but I’ll keep you updated about my progress. Please, let me know if there’s anything else I should know.”
6. End conversations gracefully
How you end conversations is also important in both face-to-face and written communication. Try to keep all of the above strategies in mind when you’re talking about the next steps and saying goodbye.
By the way, a plain “goodbye” to end a conversation sounds a bit rude and curt in English. Once again, being friendly and grateful matters a big deal. Instead of just saying “bye” consider the following:
It was a pleasure talking to you, see you next time
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule (to talk with me)
Have a good rest of your day. Take care!
Hope you have a great weekend
Appreciate you all being here, I’ll talk to you soon
I guess, we can wrap up today’s meeting. Thanks for attending, everyone!
Bye now! (Better than “goodbye” and is still typically preceded by some of the above phrases)
In written communication, saying “goodbye” is completely unnecessary and should be avoided. If you’re writing a chat message use other phrases like Have a great day! Take care! See you! Enjoy your weekend! or just a simple Thank you! instead.
This website has a wonderful article in case you’re interested to learn more on the topic of remote-first teams. Meanwhile, check out this glossary of terms which can be useful for talking about remote vs on-site working arrangements.
- Remote-friendly — typically means that your company allows remote work but you will have to adjust to the schedule and processes used at your headquarters. (It often means having to work very late or early hours etc.)
- Remote-first — remote is the default. You have both remote and office colleagues but all processes are structured so that neither remote nor office workers feel excluded.
- On-site — taking place in your office location.
- Distributed (team) — (aka virtual or remote team) a team of people who each work in a separate location and time zone and communicate exclusively online.
- Co-located (team) — a team of people located at the same physical location and communicating mostly face-to-face.
- Telecommute — to work remotely either from home or another location while being available online.
- Ad hoc (meetings) — impromptu meetings called without prior notice, whenever needed or necessary.
- Get on the call — join the call /online meeting
- Get/drop off the call — leave a call/online meeting
Learning how to communicate in a polite and concise manner will help you get better feedback from your colleagues as well as preventing you from feeling isolated while working remotely.