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Lessons a writing company has learned in eight months of WFH

Textio is one of the lucky companies: Most of what we do, we are able to do from home. When our offices closed in early March, I don’t think any of us believed we’d still be working from home in December. Yet here we are, and we’ve learned a lot along the way.

Working while cloistered at home has been a challenge. Not surprisingly, at eight months I still miss my coworkers (and walking more than ten steps at a time). But the biggest remote work surprise: how much writing I have to do!

I now realize how much I relied on passing conversations at the office to share and solidify my ideas. With fewer opportunities to think out loud with my team, my least favorite mode of communication, writing, has become the most common and most important.

For those of you who are like me—intimidated by writing, but need it to work effectively—here are a few ideas to make your writing more impactful. If you’ve already found yourself back in the office, these tips can still be used to keep your communication effective and even reduce the time you spend in meetings.

Practice finding your voice

Pre-WFH life, I shied away from contributing on Slack, fearing I wouldn’t sound smart enough. To build my confidence early on in the pandemic, I challenged myself to show up in channels where I ordinarily kept quiet. Just like how it takes time to find your voice in conference rooms, it also takes time to find your written voice. While I am continuing to hone my written communication in new spaces, I have overcome the first hurdle: feeling confident enough to voice my opinions and ideas more freely.

Dedicate time on your calendar for thoughtful writing

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal’s famous sentiment will ring true for anyone who has written against the clock. When you feel the urge to rush through with a haphazard reply to dismiss your notification bubbles, remember that clear, concise writing takes time. Taking the time to reread and rewrite also helps you cut unnecessary rambling and ensure your ideas shine instead.

While this looks different week-to-week depending on my schedule, I have successfully set aside at least thirty minutes each day over the last eight months to dedicate to thoughtful writing and responses. It’s made a huge difference in the effectiveness of my digital conversations.

Be intentional with written conversations

The methods you used for in-person meetings might not be available for written communications, but there are ways you can still try to be as inclusive as possible. Just as you’d try to make sure that quieter teammates have a chance to speak up in meetings, it’s worth explicitly asking for their input in Slack or email too.

By inviting people in, you’ll gain new perspectives and get work done better and faster. I often find myself asking questions like “who isn’t in this conversation that should be?” or “who might have a different opinion or idea that would change the direction?” as a way to pull others in.

Writing takes practice. The more you do it, the more confident and comfortable you will be.


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