Working remotely has its perks — no commute and more flexible hours — but it also requires extra discipline, especially when it comes to communication. It’s easier for information to get lost or misinterpreted when everyone on a team is distributed.
It’s critical to have defined remote communication strategies in place for the sake of your team’s wellbeing and your organization’s productivity. This way, everyone knows what is expected of them regarding language, method, etiquette, and punctuality. Instead of figuring out what works for your team by trial and error, here are a few remote communication strategies to ensure your work goes smoothly.
Your communication tools are essential. Without them, there’s no such thing as remote work! Selecting the right platforms to communicate with can make or break a company, so it’s important to carefully consider which ones make the most sense for your team’s preferences and the kind of work you do.
Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts are popular apps for video conferencing, and Slack is a particularly well-known virtual workspace that enables communication via direct messages or multi-person channels. You can also shake up the remote work format and use an app like Spot to facilitate walking meetings. Taking your meetings on-the-go allows you to exercise and enjoy fresh air while at work, boosting your creativity and physical health. Plus, Spot transcribes your conversation, so you don’t have to worry about taking notes while outside.
As for project management, common tools include Asana, Trello, Monday, and Notion. Each of these platforms helps your team keep track of assignments, due dates, documents, files, progress, and more.
Part of selecting your remote communication tools is deciding how you’ll use them. Just because your team uses Slack doesn’t mean everyone knows how to use it wisely or practically.
Create guidelines for everyone to follow that dictate what kinds of communication are appropriate for each platform or method. For example, quick updates can be posted as text in a relevant Slack channel, interaction with external parties happens via email, and virtual meetings are reserved for longer discussions and presentations. Conduct communication training during the onboarding process so everyone knows where, when, and how to share information, which will save your team time and streamline its workflow.
Another remote communication method you can use is a digital noticeboard. Instead of making everyone take time from their schedules for a video announcement or sending an email blast (emails are far too likely to be missed), set up a noticeboard on your platform of choice that’s accessible for your entire organization. Whenever you share important updates, figures, reports, problems, and solutions or introduce new hires, everyone can see the message and reference it later. Train your employees or coworkers to expect messages in this particular location so they remember to check it regularly and are less likely to miss anything important.
Zoom fatigue is real, and it’s exhausting. Video calls may mimic in-person conferences as best as technology allows, but being on camera all the time is uncomfortable, distracting, and makes people self-conscious.
Don’t feel obligated to make every meeting a video call. Embrace voice-only communication that still enables conversation without making participants worry about their appearances or locations (or how much they fidget without typical visual cues from other attendees). It sounds old-fashioned, but voice-only platforms that have the ability to record your meetings and take notes exist.
Part of remote communication is taking measures to help everyone be as productive as possible. This step doesn’t mean setting too-high expectations to keep people “motivated” or making them watch speeches about being “driven,” but creating an environment where people can do their best work. Such an environment may entail shorter hours or more flexible schedules. You can also introduce walking meetings, which get people outside, increase creativity, and support participants’ mental health. The less time everyone spends sitting at a desk, the healthier your organization will be.
One of the most important things you can do to strengthen remote communication is to foster relationship-building. People who aren’t comfortable with each other are less likely to communicate well, whereas teammates who can chat about anything aren’t afraid to approach each other about work problems or small details. Your entire company will benefit when everyone can communicate openly and without fear of judgment or being dismissed.
Where are the most significant gaps in your team’s communication flows? Most likely, one of them is when people aren’t sure of how a process works or who owns a responsibility. Spare your team the confusion and document all of your processes clearly. Make sure everyone knows where to find answers to their questions, so no one misunderstands what they’re supposed to do or pass a project along to. Doing so also ensures no work is forgotten or left unfinished.
Remote communication can be challenging to master, but as long as you emphasize clarity, over-communication, and relationships, your team will be on the right path toward success.