SMS/Email Etiquette for the Remote Worker

SMS/Email Etiquette for the Remote Worker

Remote communication can be quite puzzling. 

On the one hand, it spares you the trouble of having to interact with people face to face, especially if you spend much of your working day in sweat pants or happen to identify with us, socially-awkward hermits

On the other hand, it’s not entirely devoid of unspoken rules either. Anyone who’s ever cracked a joke in a group chat only to be met with dead silence has got to be painfully aware of that.

So far, emails, live chats, and SMS messages have been the lifeblood of just about any remote work set-up. How else would you communicate project specifications, qualifications, rates, and crucial updates from over half a world away, right?

Yet while a few quick lines in a chat room has replaced the need for lengthy meetings, there are still some courtesies that need to be observed, if only so that you don’t turn into that co-worker that gets seen-zoned every time: 



Image Credit: Getty Image

Provide Adequate Information

Don’t be that person who sends five different emails with different bits of information in each one. Not only is it confusing, but it also wastes time since your recipient will have to backtrack further to dig up the necessary information should the need arise.

Instead, condense as much critical information as you can in one email to save both parties time. (Take note, the key word here is “critical,” so stick to relevant updates on an ongoing project and save the office gossip for after-hours.)

If you can’t really go into too much detail on written correspondence, go for the simple and brief route instead. Something like “Are you free on Monday afternoon for a quick catch-up session with the rest of the team?” ought to suffice.



Image Credit: Freepik

Give a Heads-up Prior to Ringing Someone

Remote work technology greatly reduces the need to call someone on the phone or via Skype, but if you really must, try to send a heads-up via SMS or Skype chat first.

And when you do, be sure to introduce yourself (if your intended contact hasn’t exactly met you or probably doesn’t have your contact details) and give a short explanation as to what you would like to discuss during the call (see no.1).

This way, you 1.) provide the other party with enough time to prepare for the conversation so that they don’t get caught off-guard and end up giving you vague answers, and 2.) assure them that you are not a telemarketer out to sell them insurance.



Image Credit: Freepik

Go Easy on the Abbreviations

“OMG! V., v. low batt! Col u l8r!” apparently translates into “Oh, my God! Very, very low battery! Call you later!” Now, that might sound rad when you’re texting your mates or what, but it certainly won’t help your credibility if you send the same message to a colleague regarding work matters.

Admittedly, communication in the remote working world is more laid back than in a traditional set-up, but that doesn’t really give you permission to butcher the English language now, does it? Grammar and syntax rules don’t exist to make your life hell or to enable us Grammar Nazi’s, but to ensure that you can communicate in a standardized manner that anyone can understand.

TLDR version: Leave the textspeak at the door, please, or better yet, in your adolescence, where it belongs.



Image Credit: iStock

Bear Working Hours in Mind

Simply put, don’t message someone at 2 in the morning and then expect them to reply within five minutes. Seriously. 

This is especially important if you’re working within a distributed team where workers come from different locations and different time zones. The whole point of remote work is to improve one’s work-life balance, so respect your team’s boundaries by being mindful of their working schedule.

The same goes for weekends and holidays too. Unless your team really works outside of the usual hours, assume that your co-workers won’t be checking their work emails when they’re supposed to be resting or living their lives (as should you).



Image Credit: Freepik

Allot Enough Time for Recipients to Formulate a Reply 

Should you need to follow up, do compose your phrase with some consideration. Similarly, if there’s a time constraint, do indicate that as well, along with the consequences for missing it. 

For instance, if you need a colleague or superior’s feedback on an immediate concern, you can fire off something like, “I’m hoping you can get back to me by noon tomorrow as the client would like to decide on whether to hire our services or those of the other bidders by then.”

All things considered, emails and SMS messages aren’t that different from face-to-face conversations. You still need to be clear, purposeful, and above all, respectful.

Common courtesy, after all, is something that won’t (and shouldn’t) go out of style.

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