Akepa runs on an entirely remote working model, so there’s no single office where we all sit together. This has a lot of benefits – no commuting, we can work from wherever we like, we can go for a swim or do yoga whenever we want, and having no fixed office keeps our carbon footprint low.
Working this way does, however, mean that it’s important that we are extra clear and efficient with our internal messaging and communication.
So we thought we’d share a few of the working practices and tips that have helped us, as part of a series on remote working communication tips.
Tip 1: Use email subjects properly
Almost every single email you’ll ever send will fall into one of three categories:
“I have finished the report for Client A.”
“Can you share the report for Client B?”
“Write the report for Client C.”
The trick here is to retrain yourself to make it clear in the subject of every email you send, which of those categories it falls into. You can then give the detail in the body.
So rather than this:
Project X designs
Request: Send Project X design files to [client team] by 3pm GMT
This way, the recipient doesn’t even need to open the email to know what action they need to take and by what time. This works for every type of communication and can save on absent-minded mistakes and missed deadlines.
Tip 2: Communicate around tasks
It’s still absolutely fine to use email but companies are moving the bulk of their communication to apps and project management platforms.
This includes Akepa. We dislike the chaos of email and prefer platforms that are mindful of how remote working businesses need to communicate, in an organised way. We haven’t completely abandoned ye-olde email, yet, but we keep the majority of our client comms away from it.
So what to use? We prefer to use platforms that get everyone focused around tasks. After all, that’s normally what we communicate around.
Slack is massively popular these days but we prefer Basecamp because it’s a touch more task-based. They’re also a company that uses a remote working model too so we can have some extra confidence in what they do to help us improve our remote working ways.
Tip 3: Enact a ‘nohello’ policy
This sounds incredibly anti-social, but it really isn’t. In reality it’s just a tiny tweak to how you approach chat messages on platforms like Slack, Basecamp, Hangouts, WhatsApp, or whatever new-fangled thing. The rule is simple:
Never send a message that only says ‘hello’.
That’s it. It saves so much time. Look:
(five minutes later)
Rebecca: Sorry, was in a meeting, anything important?
(While waiting for Rebecca’s response, Mike went to fetch a matcha latte and only comes back fifteen minutes later)
Mike: Sorry back now, was on another client call. Do you know what time that meeting with Alan is?
Rebecca: yep, it’s at 2pm.
Mike: Ok, thanks!
Only sending a greeting immediately puts the onus on the recipient to respond before you get to the actual thing you need to discuss. That 20-minute exchange could have gone like this:
Mike: Hey Rebecca, how are you? Do you know what time that meeting with Alan is?
(five minutes later)
Rebecca: Sorry, was in a meeting. Yeah it’s at 2.
Tip 4: Set objectives for meetings
Have you ever been in a meeting and it feels like everyone is talking about a totally different topic? Do you get to the hour mark and it feels like the amorphous blob of a meeting you’re in has somehow covered everything and nothing? This happens all the time and it can be solved simply.
In a meeting invite, rather than just calling it ‘Project catch-up’, put what the needed outcome of the meeting is in the title.
So ‘project catch-up’ becomes ‘Decide main colour for project designs’.
This way, the attendees can be thinking about the outcome before they’ve even come to the meeting and it avoids annoying digressions from parties who want to discuss a different topic.
If the meeting’s more general in nature, with multiple objectives, then make sure you send over an agenda with the meeting invite beforehand. This should cover all of the key points. You could even add guideline timings to each point so that they don’t become hijacked at the expense of the other points on the list.
And, of course, remember to take notes and put them on whatever communication platform you’re using. We find it’s easier to do this directly as the meeting unfolds.
Remote working can be a challenge but communication can be just as effective, or even more effective, than person-to-person in an office. It’s worth spending some time working to get it right.