Career tips

Chat, Mail or Call? This is how communication works in the home office

Whether digitally, in writing, or by telephone: communication at a distance leaves room for misunderstandings. Therefore, especially in a professional environment, rules of the game should be laid down and expectations clearly formulated, experts advise. As a rule of thumb, the more urgently information needs to be conveyed and the more personal it is, the more direct the communication. Besides, each channel has its own special features.

Video calls

According to Melanie Kohl, video calls via Zoom or Skype are best suited for employee or feedback and target discussions. “I see how my counterpart reacts, I can perceive feelings through facial expressions and gestures, it creates more closeness,” says the author and mental coach.

Video calls are also suitable for critical issues such as a warning or even termination, says Petra Lienhop. Even if, in the best of cases, they are personally facing to face. “The more I see of the person, the better it is for critical discussions,” says the communication expert.

Even more difficult for difficult conversations online than offline: taking the breaks. “Don’t rush in with impulses or inquiries,” warns Lienhop. Just stay calm.

Everything that otherwise happens on a company’s coffee machine can also be transferred digitally, according to the coaches. In the virtual coffee corner or with a virtual beer after work, you can meet up with colleagues via Zoom, for example. “This is aimed specifically at the social exchange,” says coach Melanie Kohl.


They are suitable for factual information, such as minutes or abstracts that convey knowledge. Here, too, the coaches recommend clear rules. This includes a clear subject line that can be searched for later.

Efficiency expert Jürgen Kurz also recommends e-mails for specific questions, for example to colleagues or for external communication with customers. The advantage: the recipient can edit it whenever he or she wants. An important rule that should be defined internally: Who gets a copy and when is it put in “CC”? The following applies here: Only really include those for whom information is necessary.

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Internal Messenger

Chats can be used to briefly exchange information between employees. Group messages shouldn’t be sent to more people than necessary. Those who use emojis can express emotions or mark irony, for example. “Emojis don’t help with comprehensibility,” says Kurz, “but they can streamline processes or make them more efficient.” Thumbs up then mean: “I understand, will be done.”

Collaboration software

With applications like Jira, Asana, or Trello, tasks can be assigned to different employees, timings can be set and progress can be recorded, says Kohl. “I don’t have to ask an employee by when they will deliver their part for the project.”

In principle, the collaboration tools all work similarly. If, for example, the project manager or manager creates a new task, the person to whom the task was assigned automatically receives a message. “The larger a team becomes, the more the systems have to take over communication,” says Kurz.