Writing may be the most valuable skill while working remotely
Having worked remotely since 2016, I have had experience working with hundreds of people located all over the world, without ever leaving my home. Overall, it was a positive experience, and I can’t imagine going back to the office.
However, remote work comes with its own set of challenges, including new ways to interact with your co-workers. I have come to believe that the ability to write clearly and effectively is one of the most valuable skills a remote worker can possess.
whether SlacKOr Discord or any other app, in my experience, most of your team interactions are in some kind of chat. This can include both work-related chats, as well as social conversations of the “Water-cooler” type. You don’t want to be the one who comes and drops an unedited wall of text that makes readers flock.
In an environment where it is difficult for teams to spend quality time together in person, you need to be able to express yourself in a way that your team will get to know you. Let’s shine through your personality!
It’s always frustrating to track down an issue and try to solve a bug, and you find a conversation from a year ago where someone had exactly the same problem – only to sum it up with “It’s fixed, never mind!” Response.
As an engineer, you may be expected to contribute written responses to documents such as:
- Withdrawal requests
- User stories and other forums related to project management
- corpse dissection
If someone needs to come back to your work in six months, will you leave them with a bunch of useful information for them to follow? Recording what happened, the changes you made, and the ideas and reasoning behind them can be very helpful to anyone who comes in the future – Including the future for you.
When communicating with customers or vendors outside of your company, whether for feedback or support purposes, it is important to be as brief, precise, and professional in your writing as possible.
If you can explain your software and answer users’ questions in simple and clear terms, it can help relieve customer confusion and reduce time spent in back-and-forth email threads or support card threads. (This is true for documentation too!)
Almost every remote developer has signed off on a video call only to wish they hadn’t lost the last hour of their life to something that “would have been email”. Zoom Fatigue is real, and you should do your best to help your fellow team members avoid it.
Writing an email might take longer than you would have spent on that video call – but it saved everyone time (which potentially saved the company money, not to mention anyone else’s sanity). You’ve also given your team an email they can refer back to – just in case someone is dedicated to this video call a little bit.
Not every meeting can be email, but take advantage of meetings that can be!
Clear communication is one of the skills that good leaders need to practice the most. When a leader has poor written communication skills, it can lead to misunderstandings ranging from incomplete tasks to unclear expectations to hurt feelings. Leaders who cannot write clearly are accountable to their company.
On the other hand, everyone appreciates receiving clear instructions and expectations. While it is also important for a leader to be a clear communicator in general, giving your team and clients well-written communications that they can refer back to and reference is a vital skill.
One final note: don’t be discouraged if English isn’t your first language!
Finally, I wanted to add a note that I’ve worked with a lot of people – especially engineers – whose native language is not English.
Honestly, after building up a certain amount of vocabulary and grammar, I’ve found that people who write English as a second language often give more thoughtful answers.
I’ve seen people improve dramatically by socializing with their team members, and when in doubt – ask!