Although we may enjoy working in our pajamas and having the freedom to forgo personal grooming for the day, telecommuters should never slack-off when it comes to communication. Since the phone and email are our primary methods of communication, it’s crucial we convey a professional image when communicating with coworkers or clients. To help ensure you’re putting your best foot forward, we have put together some tips for sounding like a suit without having to wear one.
On the Phone
Disconnect from Distractions: Don’t take a call in a distraction disaster area. Screaming children, noisy television programs, loud appliances, and blinking social media websites form the Achilles heel of effective phone calls. Ensure that your home office space is a quiet, focused retreat far away from life’s lunacies.
Be Prepared: Use your computer, mobile device or good ol’ pad and pencil to make notes during your call. This will boost your professionalism two ways:
(1) You can impress your superior by recalling important points during the conversation
(2) You will have a documented record of the conversation that you can reference on a task-by-task basis
Additionally, if you are the party placing the call, consider making an outline of talking points so that you can stay on-topic and ramble-free.
Slow Down: Inhale and exhale. See, isn’t that better? Take a breath before making or answering a phone call. Center your mind so that you don’t rush your points as if you were trying to beat a buzzer. A conscious effort to control the speed of your speech will make you not only a more professional communicator, but also a more effective listener.
Don’t Try too Hard: You’re working as a graphic designer but your fantasy career lies in announcing? Save it for your blog or YouTube channel. Instead of accosting your colleagues with your pseudo-professional voice better suited for saying, “Tiffany, show us what’s behind door number three!” exude a friendly, personable tone that isn’t forced or faked.
Cut the Colloquialisms: Local slang and relaxed speech is best used during barbeques and beer with your buddies. Unless you telecommute for a local company with an extremely casual atmosphere, save the “Hey, yous guys!” and “Howdy, ya’ll!” for game day or a hoedown.
In an Email
Reply to the Right Person: You know that email in your Drafts folder about a confidential sales project for a large client? Make sure that it doesn’t go companywide. Double, triple, and quadruple check your message will be routed to the appropriate recipient before hitting send. You will save yourself loads of embarrassment and time spent writing an apology email (or possible letter of resignation).
Use a Meaningful Subject Line: In addition to being professional, labeling an email with a proper subject heading is practical. Choose a subject title that is meaningful to you and your employer. Think of email subject titling in the same way as naming photos on your hard drive. The title should clue you in on the content before you open the item and aid you in sorting your emails into appropriate folders. Consider the following:
• Never send a “No Subject” email
• Don’t use generic titles such as “OPEN NOW!” or “Important!”
• Ensure that your CAPS LOCK button is turned off. You don’t want your employer to initially assume that your message is spam.
Trash the Text Speak: OMG plz dont use teh txt shrthnd, k? thnx. It may be socially acceptable to send coded messages to your BFF 4evs, but a professional email shouldn’t look like an eye chart. Always use proper and complete spelling of words and phrases.
Keep It Simple: Do you want to read War and Peace? Well, neither do your colleagues! Construct your email using concise, thoughtful points, even if the content of your message is necessarily lengthy. Keep paragraphs small and use bullets to highlight the most important elements.
Revise Your Signature: Remember that email signature you created after your last breakup? You know, the one written in blood red Chiller font type that featured the quote about slipping into a dark abyss? Revise it. Your email signature should list your personal contact information in a clean, basic black font type like Arial or Times New Roman. Save the cutesy taglines, wild font, and special characters for a personal email account.
Mastering the art of professional communication, via phone and email, can hide a multitude of sins and missed days of hair-combing. Share your additional professionalism advice and humorous horror stories below!
image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net