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Communication guidelines

Steer your team towards intentional and effective communication.

By Darryn King

May 3, 2022

Remote workers don’t have easy access to the nuanced in-person cues that came for free with co-located workers in the office. On the other hand, working remotely and async presents a unique opportunity to consciously design and determine the way your team communicates.

A shared document that clearly, explicitly outlines your team’s communication guidelines will help ensure effective communication while minimizing misunderstandings, confusion, and breakdowns in productivity. Created with input from all team members, the document should cover every aspect of your team’s communication, from video-conferencing etiquette (cameras on or off?), the proper (and improper) use of certain tools, to detailed procedures for emergencies or urgent situations. It should be accessible to the whole team and regarded as a living document, to be adjusted according to your evolving needs.

Here are some areas your communication guidelines should address.

Communication channels

Identify the various different types of communication that occur within your organization. Establish how and where each type of communication should take place. For example, keep critical work-related conversation within certain tools and channels, separate from minor follow-ups and informal chatter.

Tools

Establish clear guidelines and best practices for each communication tool your team uses regularly, particularly drawing attention to their synchronous versus asynchronous capabilities. For certain tools such as Slack, it may be necessary to anticipate, outline, and thereby warn against all the ways they can be misused.

Meetings

Establish clear guidelines around meetings, starting with the necessary conditions to schedule (or to not schedule) a meeting. Detail meeting procedures and other best practices for doing meetings well.

Core hours

For certain tasks at some orgs, it will be useful to establish core hours intended for more synchronous communication. This may be necessary, for example, to align teams in different time zones.

Urgent situations and emergencies

Have procedures in place for urgent situations when timely, real-time communication is critical. Let team members understand precisely when to switch to specific forms of real-time communication.

"The easiest way to take on an asynchronous mindset is to ask this question: "How would I deliver this message, present this work, or move this project forward right now if no one else on my team (or in my company) were awake?"

— Darren Murph, Head of Remote, GitLab
Set up your communication guidelines with these templates:
Almanac Guide to Async Communication
Guide: Asynchronous Communication
Almanac's How We Communicate Guide
Almanac's Team Charter And Roles

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