Remote work has become increasingly popular in recent years, with many companies choosing to hire remote employees, offer hybrid work or even switch to a fully remote workforce.
While working remotely can offer numerous benefits, such as flexibility, access to better talent pools and cost savings, it also poses unique challenges. This is especially true when it comes to communication.
Let’s take a look at why communication is an issue when managing a remote team and how to improve it.
Why Communication is Key
When it comes to managing a remote team, communication is arguably the most important factor. With it, teams can stay connected and productive. Without it, remote workers can quickly become disconnected, unproductive and disengaged.
One of the main reasons that communication fails for remote teams is because many remote channels, such as email and instant messaging, are missing key aspects of face-to-face communication. This includes body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions.
As a result, remote teams need to make extra effort to overcome the communication barriers that distance creates. Here are some ways to do that:
1. Use the Right Tools
The first step to improving remote team communication is to use the right tools. Communication tools are essential for remote teams to stay connected and to collaborate effectively. Here are some of the main tools remote teams should be using:
- Video conferencing is one of the most effective ways to communicate with remote teams, as it allows for face-to-face interactions, which is crucial for building relationships and establishing trust. Video conferencing is also great when collaborating on projects and for team meetings.
- Instant messaging apps - such as Slack, Zoom or Microsoft Teams - are useful for quick and informal communication between team members. These apps allow for real-time messaging, which can help remote teams to stay connected throughout the day.
- Project management tools help remote teams to stay organized and on track. These tools help you keep track of task assignments, deadlines, and progress, which can help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that projects are completed on time.
- File-sharing platforms, such as Google Drive or Dropbox, allow team members to access files from anywhere, at any time, which can improve efficiency and productivity. This can help remote teams share documents and collaborate on projects.
2. Host Team Building Activities
Virtual team building activities are designed to give your employees a chance to connect with colleagues on both a professional and personal level, even when they don’t have the opportunity to get together in person.
Virtual team building activities lead to benefits such as:
- Encouraging, and improving, communication between team members
- Improving team motivation levels
- Helping to build team spirit within your remote workforce
- Driving employee creativity
- Higher levels of job satisfaction and loyalty
3. Schedule Regular Check-Ins
Regular check-ins are essential for remote teams to stay connected and to ensure that everyone is on the same page. These can take the form of one-on-one meetings, project meetings with select individuals or team-wide meetings.
One-on-one meetings can be an opportunity for team members to discuss work, provide feedback, and ask questions. They can also help to ensure that any issues or concerns are addressed.
Project meetings are a great way to ensure everyone is on track for completing a specific project. During these meetings, team members can give updates, ask questions and offer assistance.
Team-wide meetings are an opportunity for remote teams to come together and discuss ongoing projects, challenges, and successes. These meetings can help build team morale and ensure that everyone is aware of what’s happening across the team.
4. Encourage Open Communication
Open communication is essential for remote teams to be productive and engaged. It's important to create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, ideas, and concerns.
To encourage open communication, it's essential to establish a culture of trust and transparency. This might include creating opportunities for team members to share their thoughts and ideas, and providing regular feedback to team members.
It's also important to ensure that everyone has an equal voice in team meetings and discussions. This can be achieved by establishing ground rules around communication, such as ensuring that everyone has a chance to speak before moving on to the next topic or decision.
5. Be Mindful of Time Zones
When working with remote teams, it's important to consider time zones. If team members are spread across different countries and continents, it can be challenging to find time to meet and coordinate work. To overcome this challenge, establish a system for scheduling meetings and communicating deadlines.
One approach is to establish a core working schedule that accommodates team members in different time zones. For example, team members might agree to work during a specific time window that allows for collaboration and communication. Additionally, it's important to ensure that everyone is aware of the time zone differences and is respectful of each other's schedules.
6. Foster Social Connections
When working in an office, employees find time to catch up at the beginning of meetings, during breaks or when they need a few moments away from a project to clear their heads. These social connections are an essential component of effective communication, but are often forgotten about with remote teams. As a result, it can be difficult to build relationships and establish trust between team members.
To foster social connections, it's important to create opportunities for employees to connect during work and outside of regular hours. This might include virtual team-building activities, such as online games or virtual happy hours.
Additionally, it's important to encourage team members to share updates and get to know each other on a personal level. Sharing milestones and talking about pastimes can be a great way to connect.
7. Provide Training and Support
Effective communication is a skill, which means it can be learned and developed over time. To improve remote team communication, it's important to provide training and support to team members. This might include training on effective communication strategies, such as active listening or giving feedback, or participating in activities that promote good communication.
Additionally, it's important to ensure that team members have the necessary resources and support to communicate effectively. This generally includes access to communication tools or support from team leaders.
8. Address Conflict Quickly
Conflict is a natural part of any team dynamic, but dealing with it can be particularly challenging for remote teams. Without the benefit of in-person interactions, it can be hard to address conflicts and resolve disagreements.
It’s important to address conflicts as soon as they arise. Delaying conflict resolution can lead to increased tension and can impact team morale and productivity.
To address conflict, establish a system for doing so and ensure everyone is aware of it. This might include establishing a chain of command for addressing conflicts or providing training on conflict resolution strategies.
Effective communication is essential for remote teams to stay connected and productive. By following these tips and tricks, remote teams can improve communication and overcome the challenges of distance.
Interested in learning how you can improve the communication of your remote workforce with a Teambonders team building activity? Get in touch with our team today to learn more.