Remote teams are the future of work. It is estimated by Global Mobile Workforce Forecast Update that over 40% of the world’s working population, which is 1.87 billion employees, will be mobile by 2022. The figure could soon reach 75% in developed countries according to a Gallup survey in 2017. The practice of remote work is beneficial to both employee and employer, associated with increased productivity and staff loyalty. We covered the benefits of remote teams in more details in an earlier article. Having said that, remote work also has its own set of challenges for businesses, especially in regards to communication, which is crucial to any organization. When people do not work in the same office, communication methods are limited, collaboration can be difficult, and it is also easy to misinterpret written words when body language and voice are missing. Thankfully, the best remote teams have found the means to overcome such obstacles. Here are a few critical communication strategies that real companies have used to bridge the virtual gap between remote employees so they can work well and even closely although they are apart.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez
Consistent Live Meetings
Video meetings are an important way of overcoming communication issues between remote teams. If you are interacting by phone, certainly you cannot see the other people expressions or read their body language. Having a video meeting in the beginning help relationships start on the right foot and eventually grow over time. Subsequently, the daily video meetings could be structured towards taking small steps to achieve a big-picture goal. Some things need to be said and discussed verbally rather than written back and forth. Creating a culture of clear and periodic communication is critical.
Business communication tools are meant to boost productivity and save time. However, if people take up an “always-on” approach to communication, it can give others the impression that every moment is the right one to chat. That will lead to disruption as they may affect the person’s focus on the tasks at hand. To prevent this, people should not hesitate to tell someone when they genuinely do not have time to talk at that particular moment. Additionally, when you communicate digitally, there are no visual and verbal cues that go with the messages. A person may only be responding “Yes” to your question and not elaborating due to lack of time. Without understanding the context, you might think that the person does not care when he was just rushing to his next meeting. That’s why remote teams need to over-communicate, avoid making assumptions and take some time to review each message before sending it.
There are no shortage of communication tools, apps, and services available to businesses today. However, when do we use chats, emails or calls? It is important to set guidelines on how and when to use which communication tools. For example, emails can be used for messages that are not that urgent and does not require an immediate response. For a topic that needs clarity and sensitivity, a video call might be the best option and chat apps are useful for messages that call for a quick reply. Furthermore, whichever communication tool you choose, ensure everyone is up to date and they are always in the loop. Lastly, it is a good idea to listen to feedback from the teams if the communication tools are useful.