Any organisation which offers tools to support remote working knows that teams are more productive when they have the means to communicate effectively. So if you already know that communication is key, then let’s look at why communal conversation is critical.

A lot of us are working remotely and as a result, you no longer overhear a discussion, spot a group in conversation over a desk, or ask across the office for help on a problem you can’t solve.

Imagine you’re at work with a bunch of people, all working on the same project. You don’t notice but a couple of them leave the room, and you later find out they had a private conversation about the project in the room next door. Now imagine that happens multiple times a day, no one else in the room realises they left or knows what was discussed.

Every time you send a direct message, that’s what you’re doing. And let’s face it, this would never happen in a physical working environment, so why do we think it’s ok in a virtual one?

By conducting conversations behind closed doors, you are concealing information from others who might benefit from it and depriving yourself the opportunity to develop richer relationships with colleagues.

You might think that by sending a direct message it is going to get you to a resolution faster. You might think “I don’t want to bother everyone, I’ll ask directly”. Maybe you’re worried that your question is stupid, so you’ll ask privately to avoid embarrassment, but let’s look at what this behaviour results in; a lack of trust and a loss of knowledge.

If we moved all conversations into safe, communal spaces, just think of the potential upside; you might glean some insight into why a decision was made and use that knowledge on your next project, someone might suggest a better way to get the job done or give an answer to a question you were about to ask.

Keeping conversations out in the open, where anyone can contribute helps people to form bonds, to learn from one another and ultimately perform better as a team. If you’re going to move towards communal conversation, you first need to ensure you cultivate safe spaces and that takes time and commitment. Leaders must be exactly that, and lead by example. Commit to keeping conversations out in the open, even if it might make you look bad.

You need to let your team know that they aren’t going to be judged for communicating their thoughts to a broader audience and that they’re not expected to keep up with everything that happens in real time when working remotely.

Communal conversation is about creating an open dialogue that everyone can participate in and benefit from, whether actively or passively, now or later. So be bold, stop sliding into DMs and keep the communal conversation going.