The number of remote workers in the US increased by 159% between 2005 and 2017.
It’s hardly surprising.
After all, working remotely allows you to swap the soul-crushing commute and office politics for more professional freedom. You could be earning a living at home in your pajamas or on a paradisiacal tropical beach somewhere. At the same time, remote teams help employers cut costs, access a wider talent pool, and facilitate the hiring/firing process.
But it isn’t all positive. For all the problems solved by remote working, there are numerous challenges involved too.
And communication’s at the top of that list.
Everything from talking to employees and assigning different tasks, to ensuring the overall effectiveness of the team becomes far harder from a managerial perspective.
Are you looking for ways to counteract this particular problem with remote working? Read on for 6 top tips on improving communication within remote teams.
1. Outline Your Expectations
It’s worth remembering that remote workers often operate on varying schedules! They might be spread far and wide, in different time zones, and/or expecting to work different hours around family obligations.
Needless to say, it can be a recipe for a breakdown in communication.
Unless that is, you let people know from the outset what’s expected of them. For example, you could make it clear what hours they’re expected to work and what time they need to be available for check-ins, virtual meetings, and video conferences.
Take that approach and you’ll find it far easier to stay in touch. There’ll be less trouble contacting each other, less delay in responding to messages, and less trouble all-around.
2. Consider Your Delivery
Speaking to somebody in person has a host of communicatory benefits. You have body language, eye contact, and facial expressions to help you deliver a message.
But that isn’t possible with many forms of electronic communication.
Think about email or instant messaging. Suddenly, you have nothing but text with which to get your message across. Miscommunication and misinterpretation become far more likely as a result.
That’s why it pays to always consider the tone of voice in your messages. Double-check them before hitting send; ensure they come across as intended, and that neither the tone nor content could be misconstrued by the recipient.
3. Conduct Regular Video Calls
Remote workers are away from the office, working in silo, and with little to no in-person interaction with you or the team. It’s understandable, then, that many of them struggle with feelings of isolation over time.
In worst-case scenarios, this can have damaging effects on their well-being and job satisfaction (not to mention on productivity and effectiveness).
Thankfully, video calls can help. They provide a level of face-to-face interaction that goes a long way to tackling the negative impact of working in physical isolation.
For one thing, you feel more connected than you would in an ordinary phone call.
Then, of course, there’s the obvious benefit of staying in touch. Conducting regular video calls means you’re constantly communicating with the team. You ensure employees know what they’re doing, feel supported, and stay on track in terms of their roles and responsibilities.
4. Set Up a Facebook Group
Social media is another great way to help employees communicate.
Facebook groups, in particular, can be of use in this regard. A dedicated group (with you as the administrator) will allow remote workers to connect with one another. They can ask questions, offer each other advice and support, and discuss any relevant issues, challenges, and/or topics.
There’s room for light-hearted sharing of pictures and videos too! It’s great for lifting morale, facilitating the team spirit, and promoting collaboration.
Just be sure to set the rules for engagement and monitor the group throughout the day. You don’t want it to become a hotbed for voicing grievances and sharing anything inappropriate.
5. Use an Instant and Internal Messaging System
Email remains an important component of effective team communication.
But it isn’t without its shortcomings.
Indeed, employees probably receive more emails than they’d like to anyway. Do you really want to clog up their inbox even further? More importantly, though, using email as your go-to means of contacting remote workers leaves plenty of room for error.
The messages go into spam folders, get lost along the way, and become confusing when multiple people start responding to the same email chain.
All told, modern internal messaging systems, such as Slack, are a better solution.
They allow swift and efficient communication around particular subjects. Workers can send messages, get involved in group conversations share documents, check stub maker, ask questions, and swap ideas in an instant. This speeds up problem-solving and facilitates teamwork all-around.
6. Host Online Team-Building Events
Working in a physical office space often gets a bad rep.
They’re expensive to rent, a hassle to commute to, and inevitably full of gossip, to name just a few of the issues involved. However, they also make it easy to form friendships, get help with particular work challenges, and come together as a team.
Colleagues can eat lunch together, go out for post-work drinks, attend networking events, and so on.
The more that happens, the tighter the bond between employees becomes. The atmosphere and level of communication improve as a result.
But none of that’s possible when you’re working in a remote team.
Which is why it might help to host team-building activities online instead. Bring people together via video chat to meet one another, play games, and have some fun! These virtual meet-ups should bring people closer, build camaraderie, and facilitate communication in the process.
Communicate Better With Your Remote Teams
Remote teams provide a host of benefits to employees and employers alike.
Unfortunately, though, communication isn’t one of them. In fact, effective communication between remote workers can be a genuine challenge. Left unchecked, the difficulty involved can impact a team’s ability to operate as intended and hinder results just as quickly.
Hopefully, though, the tips, tools, and tactics in this post will help improve levels of communication in your team and prevent that eventuality from occurring.
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