Communication Tips for Virtual Collaboration

Communication  in Virtual Collaboration

One of the most important skills to have in virtual collaboration is the ability to communicate clearly. Whether it’s through emails or over the phone, you’ll need to be able to clearly articulate questions and comments, your status on projects, and acknowledgement of new assignments. With this post, I’ll outline some communication tips for virtual collaboration.


Put Urgent Information in Subject Line

In a virtual environment, chances are that most of the communication with your boss  will be conducted via email. It’s important for you to be able to write an email that managers or co-workers can understand, and to send detailed replies that are easily readable.

Sending Emails

  • Read over your email before you send it.
  • Check for spelling errors and sentence clarity.
  • If your email is urgent, it’s helpful to make that known in the subject line (e.g. “Please read this before this evening” or “Deadline has changed!”).
  • If you’ve been given a new project, it’s helpful to ask about the deadline and whether there’s any specific information concerning the assignment.

Replying to Emails

When you’re writing your reply:

  • Read over the email twice – once when you receive it, and once as you are writing your answer.
  • If it’s a lengthy email, it’s helpful to read over it in sections, and write your reply to each one as you go.
  • Respond to every question you’ve been asked, and,
  • Acknowledge that you understand any instructions given to you. Don’t assume that the recipient knows you understand.

Also make sure to use separate paragraphs for each topic you’re covering. You may even need to use numbers or bullet points to denote separate points, both in your original emails and your replies. The more organized the email is, the easier and quicker it is for someone to read and understand.

Phone Conversations is an easy way to list tasks and get reminders

Your time and your manager’s time are both very valuable, so make the most of phone conversations. If there are certain topics you want to cover during the call, such as a project on which you need assistance, write them down. Also write down any questions or new ideas.

If you haven’t already, create a free account on, where you and your boss can schedule tasks for each other. I’ve found that this is a great way for you to keep track of tasks your boss needs you to finish, and for your boss to have a convenient list of items he/she needs to follow up on.

During the call itself, keep a pen and paper handy to take notes or write down new instructions. Managers can sometimes have a lot on their minds (especially if they are managing a variety of different initiatives at once), so it’s good to be prepared to take notes throughout the call. The same goes for employees; they may have a number of questions or concerns that you’ll want to follow up on, so taking a few notes will be helpful. This will ensure that the time is well-spent for both parties.

Progress Updates

Victoria Shockley writes, edits and collaborates virtually from Raleigh, NC.

Periodically you will need to write progress updates for your boss; this is especially important for those of us who are working virtually. Without progress updates, our managers have no idea what we’re working on – or even if we’ve been working at all! The report doesn’t have to be formal; sometimes just a few sentences are fine.

When you write your report, make sure to clearly state which project you’re referring to (for example, say “Bob Smith’s article titled ‘New Opportunities’” rather than “the article you sent me last week”). If you can, give your supervisor an estimate of when you expect to be finished with the project.

Communication is crucial to successful collaboration with your manager and co-workers. It’s even more important in a virtual environment because there’s limited face-to-face contact. Being clear and specific in your email and phone interactions can improve your experience and the results of your virtual endeavors.

Victoria Shockley is a sophomore at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, majoring in English (with a concentration in Scientific & Technical Communication). She is currently working as a copy editor for the university newspaper and as the Assistant Editor of Women Writers, Women Books. She is planning a career in writing or editing.

Follow Victoria on Twitter: @Victoria_Writes. Visit Victoria’s Author Page for Women Writers, Women Books. Connect with Victoria on LinkedIn.

Martin Brossman & Associates is a Raleigh based firm providing social media training, workshops, management, talks and advising to micro businesses, small and medium sized businesses, professionals, associations and communities. Contact