Overcommunication is underrated

The case for proactive, frequent, and short communication in remote teams.

Here is a topic constantly running within the Slite team. We've even written a doc about it: How we communicate at Slite.

As this is a counter intuitive truth of remote, I thought it would be worth sharing with you, so here I go again 😉.

Funny fact, I didn't came up with the title of this post. Instead, it was sent to us by a viewer on our Remote Myths video, an experiment where some of us shared their hard truth about remote work (check it out if you haven't already!).

Thanks GornGoblin for your precious help writing this article!

I absolutely agree with the viewer's comment, but the squad made super interesting counter points to over communication in their video, such as:

"If you over communicate you're gonna get people bored." —Keysa

"If you say too much, you miss the salient points." —Alex

"What am I supposed to do? Go make a sandwich and yell 'I'm making my sandwich!' when doing so?" —Marc

It boils down to the term we've been using for years. I admit it "over communication" is not ideal.

A better alternative would be "proactive, frequent, and short communication", but, well, it's a little less catchy, isn't it? 😅

So here is what I mean by "over communicating" and why you probably need it in your remote team.

What over communication is?

Very practically, proactive, frequent, and short updates. Ideally, this takes place within a squad, and from each squad to the overall team. In its purest form, it means giving transparency on the work and outcomes of people's time.

What's the purpose of it?

It comes to fix a simple problem: async-first teams tend to grant trust by default and give people the tools and ownership for them to do all their work without needing much interaction.

That brings as a side effect one of the biggest caveats of async-first work: a potential feeling of isolation and disconnection from the team and the mission.

The solution is proactive communication and meeting in real life!

From working remotely for the past 5 years, I've learned that proactive and frequent communication creates a feeling of common motivation, and more importantly: trust and accountability.

Updating colleagues in a consistent manner over time is a great example of this concept in action. The same can be said for different standup rituals of squads. The tricky bit is the format. It's hard to write concisely and just keep the useful stuff. It's even harder to try and turn everything into a story.

These are two things that can help: practice and peer feedback. At Slite, we've gotten better and better over the years. Hopefully this will continue and turn into a "lead by example" type of ritual.

Plus, helping teams write shorter and more insightful updates is something we're promoting with our Discussions feature. Because we know that those are two more big ingredients for communicating well.

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