Remote work communication methods: how the tool you use shapes understanding

Communication pipes come in different types

Communication pipes come in different types. Some of the 'pipes' are great for specific messages, while others aren't.

For example, if you need to deliver bad news to a coworker, do you do it over email? Or do you schedule a meeting or try to meetup in person?

While the days of hopping over to someone’s cubicle to check in on a project or to huddle around a giant whiteboard for brainstorm sessions are gone for now, that doesn’t mean you can’t still create a collaborative and personal pathway for employees to communicate with one another.

Consider the context of the conversation and determine what channel (or tool) suits it best. You also need to determine what type of communication is best for an email, or when it could be a simple check-in via email, Slack, or Friday.


This post is part of our series on remote work mental models. Read the previous post on why poor visibility is a liability.


How to choose the right communication channel for your message

Here's a simple framework for picking the ideal communication channel for your message.

1.) What is the strength of the relationship?

First question to ask yourself in determining what communication channel to use is, what is my working relationship with the person or people that I am thinking about meeting with? Strong? Weak? Do you know them already?

2.) What is the nature of the conversation?

The second question to consider is the type of conversation. Is this a clear, low ambiguity topic or is it a collaborative conversation with many moving pieces to be resolved?

A face-to-face Zoom call might be if you’ve got unclear direction with stakeholders that you don’t already have a working relationship with. These are instances worth a collaborative meeting.

But if you’ve already got a strong working relationship (say team members you regularly work with) and a clear set of communication to put forward, such as some fact finding or a handoff of assets, that is a situation that doesn’t require a meeting and could be done asynchronously instead.

Otherwise, you might spend a lot of your day sitting in meetings that should have been an email.

Ready to learn more about the next mental model? Let's jump to the next section - why your coworker isn't darth vader.