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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Commentary: Communications When Working Remotely – Based on a 25-year Head-start

Since 1995, long before technology became our friend, Project Partners has operated a virtual office business model fueled by a team of talented, skilled, and experienced individuals who work efficiently and collaboratively to exceed our clients’ expectations.

We have successfully served more than one hundred organizations to date, the majority of which we have served for multiple years and/or for multiple projects and our work efficiencies have not yet skipped a beat – despite COVID-19. How is that accomplished?

Through lots of trial and error over the years to land on established policies, procedures, proven practices, checklists, templates, shared resources, and great communications that provide the infrastructure for our team’s success.

Since we’ve had that 25-year head-start to this new reality for so many of working remotely, we are happy to lift from our Project Partners policy handbook and share some proven internal communications strategies that we use to support our effective virtual business model:

– All company files are created and stored in the company’s shared file system. Do not save any organization-related files to “My Computer,” your personal online folders, or any other location.

– All business-related e-mails are created in, distributed through, and responded to via your business email account and folder.

– When you will be unavailable for a full day whether for personal or business reasons, leave that on voice mail and e-mail, leaving an alternate contact. (That will save stress on you and the persons needing you.)

– Always answer the phone lines you use for business in a professional way. “This is _______, can I help you?” or if you know the person calling in very well, still answer, “Hi, ______.” This will prevent problems and saves time. In a virtual office setting, anyone could be three-way calling at any time, so a professional answer prepares for the unexpected three-way call.

– Return e-mails, texts, or phone calls as fast as possible and within reason on any given day (but error-free and thoughtfully). At the least, try to return within that same working day. Right before closing shop, or even several times a day, sort your e-mails by sender, then by subject, then by date, just to triple check that no unanswered e-mails remain.

– When you are asked to contact someone or do something by phone or e-mail, always copy the requestor on what was done (so that the requestor does not have to wonder if it was completed). If it was accomplished by phone, then shoot a quick e-mail to the requestor summarizing what was done. Likewise, if someone has originated an e-mail conversation, copying others, keep all in conversation until the person originating drops them.

– Be literal. If you tell a coworker, “I’ll get those business cards by mail to you tomorrow,” they should expect that it will be done by tomorrow or you will notify them of the reason why not and the new expected delivery time. If you’ve been asked, “Please get the draft to me by Friday,” you should deliver it by Friday or explain the reason it is not coming after all. Never leave anyone to wonder.

– Once a supervisor or team member puts a task on your list, it should be off their list. However, the supervisor or team member should have a “done” type of communication from you (text, phone call, e-mail) to confirm completion. In other words, you should not require any follow up from the supervisor or team member to make sure the task has been done.

– No question is a bad question. “No questions asked” says that too much is being assumed, especially in a virtual office setting.

– Communicate any task or project concerns directly to the appropriate person (e.g., team member, supervisor) so concerns can be addressed. (Order determined in each situation.)

– Do not get stuck on something that becomes bigger than it should be. Pick up the phone and call, text, or e-mail, so that unproductive time is avoided.

– Use voice notes to convey information while on the move, when multiple people need the same info, or when an interruption by phone is not warranted, but the information is. (We love the REV app.)

– Never assume anything about anything. Call, write, e-mail, whatever it takes until all is confirmed.

– Produce error free work, including sentence structure, grammar and spelling – even on e-mails. The online www.grammarbook.com is an easy reference to use. The Associated Press Stylebook is a handy reference for certain types of writing, and The Protocol School of Washington’s Honor & Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Addresses is good as well.

– Never leave anything dangling or open-ended. Close the loop on all conversations, e-mails, and assignments until complete and exceeded beyond expectations.

– If you are angry, tired, disappointed, or just not feeling up to par, delay the e-mail or phone call. Take a time out and return to the issue with a fresh perspective.

These intentional communications practices when working remotely really do work, and we could write a book. Need more advice? We’re happy to help. Just give us a call or shoot us an email. We’re not going anywhere soon.

About Project Partners

Project Partners, established in 1995, is a Fort Worth-based, woman-owned consulting firm dedicated to advancing community causes for public, private and nonprofit organizations. We deliver the suite of services that guarantees success – community relations, event management, program development, fundraising counsel, board engagement, and training.


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