This meeting should have been an email. That email should have been a Slack message. That Slack message should have been an in-person discussion or videoconference. How we communicate and the method we choose can make all the difference in the outcome.

Employees have long been frustrated when the mode of communication is wrong for the message because it’s ineffective, reduces productivity or wastes people’s time, says Jill Duffy for PC Magazine. Here are her tips for improving communication:

  1. Start by asking, ‘What is the purpose?’

Before you book your next meeting or draft your next email, stop and ask yourself what is the purpose. What do you need to accomplish? Are you:

  • Delivering straightforward information
  • Collecting information
  • Soliciting ideas or opinions
  • Solving a problem
  • Encouraging discussion
  • Giving feedback

Instead of thinking about what you need to say, figure out what you want to happen.

  1. Get to know all your options

If your go-to forms of workplace communication are meetings, email and face-to-face conversations, it’s time to stretch your wings and get to know what other options you have at your disposal.

Every method of communication has strengths and weaknesses. The trick is to pick the one that fits best with what you want to accomplish. Team messaging apps, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, are great for delivering short, direct pieces of information or polling your team. Audio and video calls that mix screensharing and an online whiteboard allow collaboration, as does a simple shared document, like a Google Doc. If there is no purpose to being on a call simultaneously with your collaborators to brainstorm, as an example, then just let people brainstorm in their own time.

  1. Decide on the right format

Once you know what you want to happen, use that information to pick the right form of communication. If you deliver straightforward information, you don’t need people to be together in real time, so don’t hold a meeting. Consider instead writing an email and taking the time to revise it, so it’s clear.

  1. Be explicit with people receiving the message

A tenet of work, but remote work in particular, is to over-communicate as much as possible. Repeat yourself. Acknowledge a job well done. Spell out the details of new procedures in minute detail.

  1. Be open to change

How will you know if the way you chose to communicate worked? Ask! Once again, over-communicate and be explicit by asking people for their honest opinions. Be open to making adjustments, but also don’t give up too quickly on new-to-you methods of communicating if they feel uncomfortable at first.