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I work 100% remotely, as does the rest of my company. We use Microsoft Teams and email for everything. Some of my coworkers communicate with me by sending a single "Hi Iannaa" email or Teams message, and then they follow up 15 minutes later like "Let me know when you're free". Sometimes a little bit after this they'll CC either their or my manager and ask if I'm in the office today.

If I'm quick to see the message, I sometimes respond with "What's going on?" and they just ask if I'm free now. They never tell me what they want until they know that I'm "live" and we're several messages or emails in. This is becoming more and more common, and some people I work with are starting to sound really annoyed at me for not participating in their only-live communication style. Is there anything I can do about this?

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    Related (but I'm not sure it's a duplicate exactly) How to gently enforce "nohello" to a coworker?
    – ColleenV
    Sep 16 at 15:20
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    Have you tried setting your "Status" in Teams to let people know when you are and are not available? You can also use your email client's auto-reply function to answer the "are you free" question. Sometimes a nudge in the right direction is all people need.
    – ColleenV
    Sep 16 at 15:22
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    @ColleenV that assumes people actually check the status indicator/message. In my experience, most don't beyond looking at the color of the bubble (green, red, yellow)
    – alroc
    Sep 16 at 17:04
  • @alroc Some people do, some people don't. Setting your availability does change the color of your bubble. In Outlook, people should see your auto-reply as they are typing their message (I'm not sure if that's a thing our IT guys have configured or if it comes out of the box that way). We have the technology, we should use it. If people don't look, it's easy to say: By the way, you can always check X to see if I'm free.
    – ColleenV
    Sep 16 at 17:08
  • Microsoft Teams (like any other chat platform) is synchronous, though?
    – nick012000
    Sep 17 at 3:12
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Consistently let them know that it's more efficient for both of you if in the future they immediately open up with their question rather than waiting for you to reply.

It'll take a while but eventually, they'll understand your message, if you remain polite, positive, and professional.

Linking and explaining some online resource (like this one for example https://nohello.net/ ) after you reply to their queries, can facilitate the process.

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    First two paragraphs are spot on - unfortunately the third isn't, putting a "nohello" link in your chat profile comes off as extremely passive-aggressive IMO and that's the complete opposite of "polite, positive and professional"
    – motosubatsu
    Sep 16 at 14:32
  • @motosubatsu It depends on the context around the link. If it's alone in an empty text box you may have a point. If it's well described, it's much less of a problem (if it's a problem at all)
    – STT LCU
    Sep 16 at 14:34
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    Respectfully disagree.. the message of "nohello" is a great one, but linking to it lieu of actually explaining to your colleagues yourself how you like to communicate is saying "go click this link before I'll deem you worthy to talk to me, I won't lower myself to explain it". If you want to convey that info in your profile (which isn't a great place since that's assuming people even go read your profile first) you just.. convey the information yourself in a polite, professional way.
    – motosubatsu
    Sep 16 at 14:48
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    @motosubatsu fair enough. I removed the mention of profiles and reworded the paragraph a little bit.
    – STT LCU
    Sep 16 at 14:55
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    nice one - that's much better IMO
    – motosubatsu
    Sep 16 at 14:57
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You only need to give one response to these types of communications:

Hello, how can I help you?

This lets them know that you are available and are willing to help them with their issue. If they respond with something like "are you free" simply repeat the same question: "how can I help you?". Usually, this is enough to make them understand that you are free and willing to help them and should eventually cut down on the needless back and forth communication prior to actually dealing with whatever issue is at hand.

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  • I was searching for an other solution e.g. nohello links, but there is no workaround. This answer is the only one that works, just ask them what they want. I would just add, that I call people if they are responding with more than 3 messages.
    – Chris
    Sep 16 at 21:38
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First, try responding to them politely to request use of an IM for conversation / meeting / discussion.

If that falls into deaf ears, next time onwards if there is no proper subject line and body in those emails, ignore them. If / when they copy your manager into the email (asking about your presence or availability), reply with something like

Hey , I'm available as usual. If you have something do discuss on priority, consider using the IM to drop me a ping / call me. While focusing on work, sometimes email responses are delayed, please do not treat email response as availability indicator. Thanks for understanding.

So, how may I help you?

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