—By Mia Naumoska, Chief Marketing Officer at Chanty—
Those of us who have worked online are more than familiar with the challenges that come with remote collaboration. Whether you’ve been part of a remote team your entire career or had to make the shift due to the pandemic, it can be tricky to exchange ideas.
Seeing as communication is an essential part of any business, we decided to compile a list of the best practices that can help your team level up their game. Without further ado, let’s get right into it!
Why Is Communication Important for Remote Teams?
There are many benefits that can come from open communication such as employee satisfaction, motivation, and productivity. Employees will also be more focused when they feel like they are part of a team instead of a lone wolf.
Finally, it will avoid a whole slew of issues that can arise from the lack of communication. Imagine one of your employees is working on an important project and runs into an obstacle that they can’t get past.
In an open working environment, they’ll be able to communicate that they’re facing a challenge and ask help from co-workers who may have the relevant experience to help. That’s exactly the type of norms you want to set in any office whether virtual or physical.
Communication Strategy #1: Say Good Morning
While saying good morning may seem like something mundane or even trivial, the way you start your interactions with co-workers will determine how things progress from there on out. Something as simple as saying good morning can spark up meaningful conversations.
This can also bring a sense of human interaction to an otherwise cold, disconnected setting that certain remote teams may have. After all, using video conferencing software shouldn’t be an excuse to stop connecting with the people around us.
Communication Strategy #2: Optimise Your Tool Stack
Speaking of video conferencing software, it’s essential to have the right tools. We’re not saying you should subscribe to a dozen different solutions for remote collaboration. In fact, it would be detrimental to have employees hop between that many platforms.
The point is that having the right tools can make it easier for teams to communicate since there’s less friction involved. You’ll have better odds of employees sharing their ideas in a Zoom meeting or Chanty team chat than if they have to write an email whenever they have a thought.
It also helps if you can unify your communications onto a single platform. There are far too many cases where teams suffer from miscommunication because one group of employees is collaborating through video conferences while the other communicates through emails.
Communication Strategy #3: Be an Available Leader
If you’re a CEO, project manager, or even just a full-time employee training a new batch of interns then it’s essential that you’re available when your team needs you. This has historically been a larger challenge in remote settings compared to physical offices.
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It can be intimidating for people who are new to a team to send a private message to one of their superiors. That being the case, you need to make the first step towards an open working environment so everyone follows suit.
Leading by example is a lot harder online. If you were in an office, you could just leave your door open and invite people in, but when you’re collaborating remotely, you’ll need to go the extra mile. One way to start would be to check in on team chats once a day to see if you’re needed.
Communication Strategy #4: Have Casual Channels
Most team chat solutions (Slack, Chanty, Microsoft Teams, etc.) let you create multiple channels so you can divide conversations by department or project. However, this feature can also be used to create a safe place for employees to unwind.
This will also encourage everyone on the team to interact and communicate with one another in their free time instead of hopping onto YouTube after they’ve posted their update on a work-specific channel.
When people have the opportunity to talk about topics other than work, they start to feel more like friends instead of just co-workers. Needless to say, this rapport will come in handy when they need to communicate during work projects.
Communication Strategy #5: Don’t Micromanage
Micromanaging is one of the top causes of poor communication, that’s true for both physical offices as well as remote workspaces. When you spoon-feed employees and tell them to think inside the box, you’re degrading their ability to work and communicate freely.
The more autonomy you give to your employees, the more initiative they’ll develop when it comes to asking for help or voicing out their concerns. Frequency is also an essential aspect to consider. For instance, bosses who send out more emails tend to see less engagement.
You may get a reply on each of the dozen emails you’ve sent out but collaborators will be so drained that there’ll be no communication outside that. Burning your team out with a barrage of messages will just make them avoid communication platforms altogether.
Communication Strategy #6: Employee Feedback
It can be hard to hear criticism or find the team to get feedback when a company is dealing with heavy workloads but this is a crucial part of healthy collaboration. No matter how much attention you dedicate, it’s impossible to identify and solve every problem yourself.
Getting the take of the rest of your team can help bring issues to light that you may never have even considered. Furthermore, showing everyone that their opinions matter will make them more likely to proactively reach out the next time they see something amiss.
Communication Strategy #7: 1-on-1 Meetings
Asking for feedback during team meetings is a good start but the journey doesn’t end there. Like it or not, there will always be some things that employees aren’t willing to talk about in a group setting, potentially because one of their co-workers is part of the problem.
Having 1-on-1 meetings with employees will give them the chance to share their true feelings in confidence. Establishing trust with them also increases the odds of them coming to you again if another issue pops up that you’re not aware of.
Communication Strategy #8: Teambuilding Exercises
While the pandemic may have eliminated most of the teambuilding exercises that have been proven effective such as obstacle courses or escape rooms, there are many digital alternatives that can help achieve the same results.
Having online trivia nights, virtual coffee chats, or even streaming the big game on a service like Teleparty after work. Regardless of what you do, create opportunities for employees to lower their guard and start talking to each other in a friendlier context.
You could also head to teambuilding.com and have a look at some of the virtual options they have. These include murder mystery parties, puzzle-solving, spy, and various trivia variants for your team to try out.
Communication Strategy #9: Flexible Hours
It may not be accurate to say that the 9-5 model is going to be eliminated entirely (anytime soon) but there’s no denying that flexible schedules do have their fair share of benefits. Even tech giants like Google or Apple let their employees leave early if they’re done with their tasks.
Letting employees handle their own time and work at a pace they’re comfortable with will increase the odds that they engage creatively with co-workers in between tasks rather than going through every workday like a silent machine.
As you can see, working in a remote team doesn’t have to be rocket science. Good communication mostly comes down to being available, making the first move, and encouraging an open environment where every opinion is heard.
Remember, people are more likely to share when they know their voice matters. If you apply some of the strategies we’ve covered today, rest assured that you will see results in no time. That’s all for now, stay safe, and never be afraid to speak.