Remote communication with teams during pandemic

Remote communication with teams during pandemic

- 4 mins

Our entire IT-department (70+ devs) works from home, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only does the Corona virus affect our personal lives, it also takes its toll on how we work as a team, and especially on the way in which we communicate.

The “stay home, stay safe” slogan inspired me to revisit what it is that makes remote work effective. In order to work effectively in a remote culture, the teams in my company should focus even more on trust, transparency and psychological safety. Several methods of communication (Slack, Google Hangouts, and email last) are widely adopted in our company and used throughout the IT-department, whether you’re in the office or remote.

I have encountered some challenges and learned some important lessons on communicating effectively during a pandemic on an individual level which I’d like to share with you.

Elaborate and document

Effective communication is everything. I learned I had to communicate and document a lot more working from home, than when I was working at the office, because sometimes messages in Slack/chat get misinterpreted.

These are what I consider the most valuable points of communication in my job as a Scrum Master during these times of uncertainty and anxiety:

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Provide more details

Some comments, whether it’s in a chat thread or in a code review, need more context. How would you feel if you spent days working on a feature, submitted a Merge Request and someone responds with “Your code sucks.” Or when your team lead slides in your DM with “We need to talk.”

Most developers know the unwritten rules of reviewing code in a constructive way. These review guidelines can help a lot in our daily communication too.

Of course these are examples, but the sentiment is clear. These comments made me feel a lot of emotions. However, I can’t look inside someone’s head. What if the person writing these comments has no clue how their message was received? Maybe they’re trying to work while dealing with a screaming toddler. Or maybe the current state of the world is too difficult to handle for them.

I know my mood affects the way I respond to messages, so I cannot let my emotions get the best of me. If providing more information saves time, and prevents heavy sighs and frustration, then I’ll just keep on providing details and context.

I’m a big fan of emojis and I use them a lot in Slack conversations. It helps with transferring certain emotions with answers. “No.” vs “No 😊” are two very different answers.

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Video calls

Sometimes text messages are not the right medium for discussing or explaining hard subjects. Video calls are a nice way of having quick conversations. You can provide more context and details and move straight to action when needed.

However, during video calls, a lot of information can be revealed on the environment in which the person is calling from. Be aware of the fact that you are still in a professional setting. So commenting on visuals might not always be a good thing.

For example, “That’s a lot of laundry behind you” might be perceived as a bad thing if you are not in a friendly space with someone.

In all cases, if you’re not friends outside of work, or are unsure what relationship you have with someone, restraining yourself from commenting on the environment someone is calling from might be a safer solution.


Working remote with an entire team is challenging. Especially these days where product owners, engineering managers, dev teams and stakeholders have to deal with big changes that impact the way we work. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and let your emotions get the best of you. But if you spend a bit more time in conveying your message and providing more context you’ll develop one of the most important soft skills: communication.

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