It’s been a year since the majority of businesses made the shift to a remote working setup, thus jumpstarting a long process that’ll change the landscape of work – possibly forever. Today, the global pandemic continues to keep non-essential workers off-site and more and more new remote teams are being formed. Although a full year may seem to be a long enough learning curve, remote working is still a relatively new concept for everyone. Challenges persist, especially when it comes to communicating effectively within remote teams.
Whether you’re a business owner, a manager, or a team member, here are six actionable communication tips that’ll help you adapt quicker and better to this new norm:
- Simulate An ‘In Office’ Experience
Most communication issues stem from the fact that distributed teams work from different locations. Some companies even have teams that work in different time zones. To prevent the feeling of being disconnected from one another, try creating a workplace culture that mirrors that of an office setup. One effective way to do this is by investing in collaborative software that allows for the next best thing to face-to-face communication. This way, it’s easier for staff members to brainstorm, work together on tasks, and monitor the team’s overall progress.
Apart from project management tools, your team will also benefit from virtual versions of your trusted office tools and equipment. For instance, some of the best online fax services make it possible to share and save files using any smart device. Such services can make your team feel less alienated from remote working by taking cues from traditional office workplaces, but with a higher level of convenience and efficiency.
- Use The ‘One Tool Per Method’ Rule
Speaking of management tools, the normalization of remote working resulted in a staggering amount of collaboration and communication software made available. Having too many options can sometimes have the opposite effect on your team’s productivity if the members aren’t always in sync. Therefore, it’s wise to designate one tool that everyone will use for each task or purpose.
Consider using phone calls only for urgent matters and video calls only for long discussions. Use instant messaging for quick questions or check-ins and email for anything else that requires a bit more elaboration. By following these rules, there are fewer chances of missed messages or confusion among team members. Also, who likes it when their notifications blow up? Literally no one, so using one tool per method is a smart solution to that.
- Create A Communication ‘Handbook’
What’s easier than overcoming communication challenges? Preventing them from happening in the first place. To make it possible, create a virtual ‘handbook’ that covers every team member’s expectations and preferences when it comes to internal communications. This guideline should answer important questions such as the following:
- When do you log in and log out?
- When are you available for a conversation?
- What is the best way to reach you?
For teams that work in different time zones, learning each other’s preferences is crucial in respecting time differences, availability, and privacy. It makes it easier to keep track of remote employees at any given time, thus preventing any loophole in the workflow. It also enables the team to create further guidelines on work management, such as determining the acceptable length of time for when someone is unresponsive in communication channels. Setting a communication guide not only ensures smooth business operations but also fosters a culture of accountability.
- Harness the Power of Visuals
This simple fact is often taken for granted, but visuals can make a world’s difference in remote collaboration. We’ve learned from our school days that images are easier to digest than blocks of text. Remember when your teacher would present a lesson and use tons of visual aid? Your remote team will also benefit from the no-fail practice of visual storytelling, especially when discussing difficult concepts or processes. Swap lengthy paragraphs for infographics, diagrams, flow charts, and roadmaps. Not only are these visual tools easy to understand, but they can also save you a lot of time in explaining.
- Hone Your Writing Skills
Outside of the occasional phone and video calls, most of your remote team’s interactions will be through written text. On one hand, you have more time to think and formulate your messages. On the other, tone and intention are more difficult to convey through written communication. Therefore, it’s important to practice clear and concise writing. This doesn’t mean you have to be a grammar Nazi. You simply need to write with more quality.
To achieve this, start by following the three C’s of effective communication:
- Use simple language and write naturally. A good technique would be to write just like how you talk.
- Get straight to the point and keep it simple. Fillers have no place in virtual communication.
- Make sure to communicate regularly. You’ll be able to develop your own style and your colleagues will learn when and how you communicate.
Written communication seems simple, but in certain situations, simplicity is hard to achieve. Sharpening your writing skills will surely take time. If it’s any consolation, the era of remote working shows no end in sight, so you may have the luxury of time to practice. After all, written communication skills are important life skills and valuable even beyond the bounds of your job.
- Mind Your Virtual Body Language
Non-face-to-face communication is tricky. If you solely rely on non-verbal communication, it can be an open invitation for misinterpretation. There’s always the risk of coming off as too vague, too aggressive, or too passive. To prevent such mishaps, always be mindful of your cues.
In particular, pay close attention to the tone of your written messages. Make good use of special text formatting such as bold fonts and italics to convey strong emphasis or highlight your intention. If your company permits it, use emojis and reaction GIFs to better personalize your messages.
When it comes to video conferences, always sit upright even when you’re not talking. Your posture and alertness during the session can say a lot about your attitude toward team communication.
In Sync and In Tune
Everyone has different ways of adapting to remote working. Some of us may not be tech-savvy or have longer learning curves. Still, communication challenges affect us all the same. Apart from practicing these tips, it’s equally important to foster a supportive and empathetic work environment. These are the keys to achieve a workforce that’s in sync and in tune with each other.