Make your life easier and smooth out any friction in your remote team with these easy-to-implement strategies for better remote team communication.
After nearly three years of remote work, you're most likely all too familiar with the common communication issues that can arise on a daily basis with new teams, or even established remote teams.
Instead of trying to get on and make do with any communication issues, good leaders should want to improve a remote team’s communication. How can leaders ensure effective communication between colleagues so that work gets done, team members are happy and the organisation continues to thrive?
In this post, we’re not going to cover typical hybrid work best practices like scheduling regular team video calls. Instead, we’re going to introduce innovative ways that will ensure all-round better collaboration for your hybrid or remote team.
- Switch Up Your Technology
- Technology Training
- Clear Language At All Times
- Communication Upskilling
- Use Scheduling Software
- Open Questions Policy
- Always Follow Up
Common Remote Communication Issues
Before we can improve communication in a remote team, it’s vital to understand the main issues that can come with working remotely. Aside from common issues such as technology mishaps or scheduling issues, one of the biggest challenges in a remote team is the lack of physical presence.
Colleagues who are going into the office are able to easily understand body language and social cues to smooth out communication. When remote workers are forced to rely on technology, those all-too-important social cues are lacking and problems can arise.
When a remote team’s communication is subpar, that is when confusion and misunderstandings are more likely to occur. This can lead to disengagement, frustration and even a lack of trust between colleagues.
Obviously, clear and effective communication is essential to any organisation. Read on to discover how to overcome communication barriers in a remote team.
7 Tips For Better Remote Team Communication
1. Switch Up Your Technology
For lots of organisations, it was an abrupt and forced shift to remote-first workplaces. The sudden change came without any planning and meant HR and technology departments had to make hasty decisions on what software to adopt.
As we transition out of the pandemic, now is the perfect time for leaders to review and assess how well their first technology decisions are doing.
Studies find that employees who are happy with their communication technology can experience an increase of up to 30% in productivity, making it well worth the investment. Perhaps it might be time to shop around and look at competitor software for new remote communications platforms.
Admittedly, company-wide IT changes are far easier to implement in smaller organisations, but that’s not to say larger organisations are stuck with clunky remote software.
The first step will be to research, and conduct surveys to find out how people are utilising tools currently. What features are lacking and what would employees like in a tool that would help better communication? Are there any competitor tools out there that could better suit your organisation’s needs?
2. Technology Training
Speaking of technology, even once you’ve implemented the best remote communication tool in the market, it won’t, and shouldn’t, end there.
Leaders should ensure that adequate staff training is carried out for all employees. Every single team member needs to know how to use the technology given to them with ease. Leaders struggling with remote team communication issues will need to review current training protocols and look to improve or increase them to ensure everyone feels comfortable.
As well as making sure that everyone is trained in how to use tools, leaders can create easy-to-understand guidebooks that team members can turn to when they have a quick question about a tool. These documents should be uploaded into a secure, shared space.
3. Clear At All Times
When most communication is carried out via email and messaging applications, there is a wide margin for expensive errors. Unfortunately, misunderstandings happen all too often with remote teams, costing larger organisations millions of dollars a year.
In order to ensure effective communication within remote teams, establish email etiquette, and as a manager, be a role model when it comes to conveying clear messages that can be understood by all. If your industry or department is acronym-rich, consider creating documented guidelines or glossaries that provide definitions of all commonly used terms. These glossaries can be given to new starters as part of their welcome pack.
If the same misunderstandings keep happening, it might be time for a sit-down with the team and work out where things are going wrong. Is it a particular team member? Is it a language barrier? What can be done to improve remote communication for that specific team member?
4. Communication Upskilling
It’s not a given that all team members are natural-born experts in interpersonal skills. Some remote workers might struggle more than others to communicate effectively with their colleagues.
To avoid any issues before they arise, ensure that all remote teams are given opportunities to upskill their soft skills, primarily on how to communicate effectively in a remote workplace.
Communication issues might not just affect productivity, there could also be negative consequences to employees’ wellbeings. If remote team members aren’t getting on with one another then that could seriously impact their performance at work.
Learning how to work with others might be a new skill for more introverted types. If you’re a leader who excels in interpersonal skills, don’t take it for granted that everyone else does too.
Equipping remote teams with the right skills will not only improve communication in their department but provide direct benefits to the organisation as a whole. Investing in the ongoing development of employees is a vital part of any organisation’s path to success.
5. Use Scheduling Software
Working in different locations means that it’s all too common for scheduling issues to arise. Often, the most interactive or creative collaboration needs to happen in person. An expert in remote communication also knows what works best in person and when to suggest an in-person meeting.
Hybrid workers who are in the office often spend time on video calls with peers who are remote. When one staff member has attended the office for an in-person meeting, only to find there was a scheduling conflict, there will be some disgruntled team members to deal with. Repeated instances of changing schedules without finding out in advance can lead to drops in employee engagement.
Avoid any potential problems by making use of hybrid scheduling software like DuoMe. DuoMe goes further than a simple scheduling software tool, DuoMe enables hybrid teams to communicate where they plan to work and pick days in the office based on who they want to collaborate with. Making it the perfect choice for hybrid work models, learn more about DuoMe.
6. Open Questions Policy
All too often, poor communication can come down to a simple misunderstanding or because someone forgot to double-check with another colleague over the finer details of a project.
Leaders should strive to adopt an open questions policy, encouraging all team members to feel confident enough to ask a question, no matter how ‘silly’ they might feel.
Getting remote team members to a place where they feel comfortable enough with one another to ask small questions can be tough. Encourage colleagues to check each other's work for mistakes as well.
Foster a friendly remote workplace and initiate in-person bonding events where possible to help build connections between remote team members.
Your aim as a leader should be to have even the most junior employee feel they are able to talk to the most senior staff member if they want to. Antiquated office politics and hierarchies should remain firmly in a pre-pandemic world.
This is another area where in-person social activities can help to break down barriers and nurture relationships in a relaxed setting. If in-person events are impossible, try and create open channels in your communication tools. This will need a proactive approach from senior leaders to get people actively participating at first, so stick with it.
7. Follow Up
With so many different methods of communication, from email to SMS, from Slack to phone calls, and even, of course, good old-fashioned in-person meetings, it can be hard to keep track of what’s happening and who’s actioning it.
Even the most capable project manager might struggle every now and again if they don’t have a central hub where all key points are communicated. Make sure remote employees know that if someone needs to be followed up on, it is documented via the appropriate channel with a reminder to check back in if needed at a later date.
Be firm with all team members that this is non-negotiable and will avoid any misunderstandings later on. If everyone remembers to update their progress and also knows where to look for the latest updates on a project, smooth communication can almost be guaranteed.
Learning how to improve communication in a remote team is essentially about finding the balance between technology and soft skills. We should, of course, utilise the technology we have at our fingertips to help make our lives easier and get messages across more quickly.
However, we should also make sure that the human touch doesn’t get lost in all the technology. Good communication at its core comes down to how humans interact with one another. Leaders will want to embrace the human side of colleagues and learn to connect on a deeper level if they truly want to improve their remote team’s communication.
Graham Joyce is co-founder of DuoMe, a flexible working advocate and a frequent panellist/commentator on the issues of flexibility or hybrid working.