Globally distributed teams use Skype as a primary communication platform – to conduct scrum meetings, person-to-person quick chats, for screen sharing and video conferences. We, thus, spend more time on Skype now than we did on telephone ever before. Here are some tips to increase productivity and efficiency (for all participants) while using Skype.
Are you really available?
Skype allows you to set status to indicate your availability. Make it a practice to use it to indicate your non-availability – during meetings, presentations or when you do not want to be disturbed. On the other hand, just because someone’s status indicates that they are available, do not assume or expect them to respond to your IM messages immediately. Be respectful of their time schedules, work habits and deadlines.
Evaluate if this conversation can be delayed to a scheduled meeting at a later time, instead of now. See if you can send an email instead of interrupting someone with an IM. If you expect it to be a lengthy conversation, request for a voice call instead of a series of IM exchanges.
Sharpen your ax
If you are going to be using Skype, invest in a good headset/microphone device to reduce/eliminate ambient noises and increase audio quality. Ensure your devices and software work efficiently, all the time. Make sure your connectivity and bandwidth is good – especially, if you are using Skype app on a mobile device. You do not want to be having one of those `Can you hear me now?’ conversations.
Keep it short and be direct
Keep your conversations short, precise and on-topic. Being short does not mean being rude – so don’t be offended of someone’s short conversation. It is not easy to change our behavior if we are on a voice call or if we are in IM exchanges – since we are using the same platform. If you are using IM, think of that as texting (SMS) someone. Don’t send an IM with just “Hello”. For example, ask directly what you need to know: “In the Acme project –credit card transaction module, what is the transaction sequence for credit card charge reversal?”
Keep your conversation professional. Sarcasm, humor and tone do not translate well in IM. Be clear and direct in your conversation.
End your conversation explicitly, like TTYL, BFN, or something short. Do not leave the other person waiting for you to continue your conversation. If you are going to take time to respond to a message, indicate to your contact with a BRB.
No confidential information
If something cannot be said in an email, do not say it in IM! Avoid sharing sensitive and confidential information in IM.
Always ask your contacts if it would be OK to use a video call or to share your screen before you initiate the call. It helps to get themselves setup correctly and pay attention to the shared screen, instead of just talking to you with the Skype window minimized.
Skype and similar IM platforms allow us work efficiently and collaboratively in a multi-geographic, multi-time-zone environment. Follow these simple suggestions to save time, and increase productivity. Always ask yourself if your interactions can be made less interruptive and more efficient.