As part of the global effort to deal with the effects of the coronavirus, governments and businesses are encouraging employees to practice more smartworking. In this article, I look at some useful language that you can use to work remotely from home or some other location away from the office.

What is smartworking?

According to one definition, smartworking is “a new model of work that uses the new technologies and the development of existing technologies to improve both the performance and the satisfaction that is obtained from the job”. In practice, for most people it means using your computer and phone to do the things you would normally do in the office, i.e. sending emails and messages, taking part in meetings via Skype, making phone calls and using a variety of programs and platforms to interact with colleagues, clients and customers.

While there are almost limitless choices in terms of technology, the key words and phrases that you need to get your work done are fairly standard. You’re probably already familiar with the technical vocabulary and jargon in your industry. Whether you’re working from home or the office, the problem remains the same: what do you say in typical business situations?

Let’s look at some of these in detail:

Making phone calls

When you’re calling a customer or client, there are a number of phrases you can use to start the conversation. Always say why you’re calling someone:

  • I’m calling about the proposal I sent you last week.
  • I wonder if we could just have a chat about the situation in Germany.
  • I’d like to bring you up to speed with what’s happening here in Italy.

In the current climate, people might be reluctant to arrange face-to-face meetings. Here’s how you can suggest an alternative:

  • Maybe we can do / have a Skype call?
  • Let’s discuss it over the phone.
  • How does a conference call sound to you? I can ask Steve Richards from Marketing to join us.

Writing emails

Email remains the “workhorse” of everyday business. (A workhorse is the basic but reliable machine or technology that you use every day to get your work done.) You can improve your emails by making them more direct and using a conversational tone: write the way you speak. Avoid very formal language or complicated sentence structure.

Here’s an example of an email to an established customer from a member of the support team:

Dear Kim,

I hope you’re well and managing in the current situation. Hopefully, things will get easier over time.

I’m currently working from home. It’s not an ideal situation, although it does mean that I get to spend more time with my kids.

Thanks for your email. I’ve contacted Mary Bennett in Toronto and asked her to forward the relevant plans to you. I’ve also updated the online folder and sent you a PDF with the proposed changes.

Of course, there could be some unexpected problems over the next few months but I will be here to provide ongoing advice and support for the Mariposa project.

We really appreciate your loyalty as a client and whatever happens, our commitment to give you the best service we can will remain.

Looking forward to receiving your feedback.

Take care,

Edward Price
Customer Delivery Team

P.S. You’ve probably already heard that our annual Sales Conference in Jakarta has been postponed. Please check the News section of our website for updates.

Using Skype

The next best thing to a face-to-face meeting is a Skype call. It’s not always as smooth as an actual meeting and there can be problems or delays getting connected. Here are some phrases you can use to manage the situation:

  • I’ve got a problem with the sound. Can you hang on ( = wait) while I set up my microphone?
  • There’s a strange / funny echo. Can you move your mic ( = microphone) away from your speakers?
  • Hold on. I’m going to use my headset.
  • I can see you, but I can’t hear you. Have you got your audio turned on?
  • It’s not a very good connection. Can we try turning off the video?
  • OK, I can hear you now.
  • I can see you now. Yes, I can hear you loud and clear.
  • So, let’s talk about the designs for the new report. We’ve come up with three possible solutions…

The key to smartworking and using a combination of devices and platforms is to be as adaptable as possible. If you start a conversation on the phone and move to email, using consistent, natural language can help you to make a smooth transition. By employing a conversational tone across the different platforms, you can reassure your client or counterpart and demonstrate that you have a capable, professional approach to doing business. Finding the right mix of technical / formal terms and friendly, informal phrases will enable you to connect with the other person and help develop a good working relationship.

© Robert Dennis 2020

Are you smartworking? Would you like to improve the way you communicate with clients and colleagues in English? Contact me to discover how I can help you or your company to use English in the most effective way.