Presence: The Silent Productivity Killer

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One of the worst habits that somehow made its way from the office into remote work is “presence”. There is this innate expectation that if you’re online and in the chat rooms you’re working.

Unfortunately slack and similar communication environments have become a cesspool of endless threads where nobody is able to explain an idea from start to finish because it is covered by all the “aham”, “I get it”, “yes” or “random cat gif” replies.

The FOMO associated with this expectation as well as the occasional “I wrote this on the main channel two days ago” coming from a manager — as if what they write is God’s word — weighs down productivity.

One of the best solutions to this is to use asynchronous communication as much as possible. For this, people need to become good writers.

We've gotten so used to blurting whatever crosses our mind, without even thinking about it, without filtering anything that I've gotten to the point where I'm calling it Death By a Thousand "Return/Enter" presses. This is how we've gotten to the mile-long monosyllabic conversations even the best readers among us can't make sense of.

We need to learn how to write longform but we also need to expand our vocabulary to be able to explain a concept using different words, in case people have comprehension problems.

Oh, and we need to learn how to use email. Many think that moving conversations through email is the solution, but you can easily get to the same issue chats have, by CC-ing everyone, and FYI-ing everyone else.

When directing a conversation to someone we must first think about the value of their time and concentration. Is it worth pulling someone out of what's supposedly considered productive work, just to inform them about something they can't do anything about, or have no input on?

What it all boils down to is how we value other people's time and attention. Once you take that into consideration every time you start a conversation, things will flow a lot smoother, and you won't turn your email and project management tools into Yet Another Slack Channel.

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Leander Huth from Berlin, Germany - Remote Work Advocate and Leadership Coach @ Stanwood

For slack we did it like that and it helped to keep slack quiet: always use threads.

  1. start your thread with a bold headline in the main channel to keep the channel clean
  2. first line: add short one-line summary
  3. mention the people who should recognise it
  4. ask for a check reaction if everything is clear
  5. check the day after if everyone has actually reacted and if not, mention again.

xoxo, Adrian && Cristi

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