The Top 3 Remote Team Communication Strategies
Remote work is tough.
We kind of got thrust into a situation where we HAVE to do it, but not everyone was ready to do it.
Even before the global pandemic, many large corporations have tried to deploy the concept of remote work, but it definitely hasn’t been easy.
As the ‘new normal’ continues on into 2021, working remotely has become a necessity across the globe and across industries.
It’s also doubtful that remote work would be phased out anytime soon, even when it’s deemed safe for the workforce to return to the office in full capacity.
The allure of working from home or being able to fulfill your job duties from anywhere with a stable internet connection is the stuff of dreams. However, managing remote workers is another scenario.
How can you manage and keep remote workers accountable, motivated, and performing at their highest potential?
So, Why Do You Need a Communication Strategy for Remote Teams?
First of all, without proper communication, everything goes downhill. It doesn’t matter if you are face to face in a board meeting or briefing a team over video chat.
Without structured communication, many important messages, instructions, and other vital information may get lost or miscommunicated. This can result in problems arising or delays in getting tasks done.
To avoid these mishaps, managers must have a communication strategy in place to connect with remote teams. This keeps everyone informed of their duties and assigned roles or tasks. It also helps with giving and receiving updates, requesting changes, sharing of information and feedback as well as keeping the team working as a whole unit.
What Do You Need to Create a Communication Strategy?
In order to create a communication strategy, you must have certain tools at your disposal. These tools can then be used to complement each other to cover all your bases. You will need tools that can allow you to do the following:
- Connect and talk to team members as a group and individually
- Share important resources or data
- Keep track of tasks and their completion rates, deadlines, and who is responsible for delivery
- Create reports, charts, and graphs from available data
- Have interactive real-time discussions and meetings
And what are some common factors of all these features in a remote team setting? A stable and fast internet connection, a reliable computer or smart device, a telephone line, and a schedule.
Remote teams consist of members who are not under the same roof or office building. Therefore, how can you get everyone to tune in at the same time consistently? You will need to schedule meetings and other events that require group participation. You also have to schedule tasks and delegate them. Unlike the brick-and-mortar office where you have designated hours in a workday, working remotely means that your team members could possibly be in different time zones.
Scheduling plays an important role in managing remote teams, but it is also heavily reliant on technology. Teams must have access to the internet and capable devices that allow them to work and communicate with headquarters. So, your team must be outfitted with the right equipment and tools at home that they would usually use at their workplace. They also need to be reachable at any given point in time according to their scheduled work hours. This means that if they can’t be reached through their laptop for any particular reason, a telephone is a must-have.
Top 3 Communication Strategies for Remote Teams
How do you use the technology required to keep your remote team members productive? It’s not as easy as giving everyone a laptop and expecting them to automatically know what they should do to commence remote teamwork. How the tools available are used effectively is up to the team manager to create a communication strategy. Here are 3 communication strategies that can help you to communicate effectively with your remote team members.
1. Using a standardized collaboration tool/software to bring team members together
Collaboration tools such as Taskworld, ProofHub, and Basecamp are a few of the best project and team management software that companies use for a more streamlined workflow. These types of apps and software allow team members to have a centralized platform via which they can communicate, view schedules, have meetings, share data, and track their progress to name a few features.
These tools also allow for more transparency and efficiency amongst the team. Some of the software choices, like Taskworld, available are ‘all in one’ platforms that cover almost every aspect of team collaboration and communication needs. The software can be used as a stand-alone platform or be used in conjunction which other specialized apps which facilitate items such as video calls, messaging, email lists, cloud storage, to-do lists, or file sharing.
Investing in a centralized platform also ensures that all team members are on the same page and can be held accountable for their responsibilities. Collaboration tools also help with boosting productivity because teams are more motivated to reach goals and complete tasks because they can see a visual representation of all their tasks, work, and progress and track or set goals. Managers can also provide detailed overviews or guidelines so that everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing.
Another great reason why using collaboration tools in your team communication strategy is that team members feel more confident working independently and strive harder to put their best work forward to contribute to the success of the project. They are able to keep themselves more organized and focused using the features of the collaboration tools and stay on top of their duties.
2. Scheduling video conferencing/ phone/ audio calls
Some things are better understood when heard or spoken out loud.
While emails and instant messaging are great ways to communicate, nothing beats the human experience of a face-to-face chat. This is especially important for remote workers who may or may not be interacting much with others due to pandemic restrictions and live alone. If you don’t have an integrated collaboration tool, video conferencing is the next best thing to IRL meetings to discuss work and ongoing projects.
As a manager, you should have a flexible schedule of video conferences to brief teams, brainstorm, or simply check in on their progress and overall well-being. Having a set time for meetings also helps remote workers to have more structure to their day, especially if they are used to daily morning meetings to brief them on the goals for the day at the office. It also gives the team a chance to virtually be present and see each other all at once. This can help boost employee morale and maintain connection and support systems, especially in difficult pandemic times.
In order to be efficient at this, teams should all be using the same communication platform such as Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or other similar apps. Once a suitable avenue is chosen and implemented all team members can be signed in during the workday to be easily contacted.
Having a conference with all team members once or twice a week can do a lot for productivity and provide clarity on the tasks at hand. Because they can’t leave their desk and simply go to the boss’s office to ask a question or for assistance, video conferencing and phone calls are the only available outlets to facilitate this.
Maintaining an open-door policy even via virtual means also fosters a work culture that is centered around communication and trust. Knowing that colleagues and supervisors are easily reachable to discuss any issue that may arise whether in a group meeting or individual discussion takes a lot of guesswork and uncertainty off the table. For instance, if someone needs to get files that are essential or urgently required for their task completion, they should be able to reach out to the person responsible for these files via a phone or video call. Through this method, they can then request the files or discuss the information in a more in-depth manner than a traditional email can provide.
3. Virtual team building
Remote teams can benefit a lot from virtual team building. Using some of the same resources for work-related procedures such as collaboration tools, messaging, or video conferencing platforms, employers can also establish team-building events. These team building activities can range from virtual water cooler chat sessions, online classes, training and workshops, online counseling, health and wellness courses, online office games, and other fun activities that contribute to employee wellbeing. Incorporating team building into your management strategy for remote teams can reap the following benefits:
- A less stressed workforce
- A sense of normality
- Team relationship building
- A break from work to create work/life balance
- A renewed sense of vigor and passion for the job
- Team innovation
- Team productivity and motivation
It is probably even more important to maintain team building in a remote setting because of employees being separated by distance, time, and schedules. This can easily lead to a lack of team unity and discourage teams from reaching out to each other to discuss work or maintain friendly relationships like they would in a pre-pandemic office setting. Team building also shows that management views their employees as valued members of the organization who deserve to be treated fairly and not like workhorses. Jobs can be stressful in any setting, team building and wellbeing activities are ways that can encourage a healthy method of coping with stress, build support systems and bring teams together not only as colleagues but as friends or even family.
Incorporating such activities also works well for company image and reputation. New recruits are more likely to be attracted to companies that have an open appreciation for their employees. It also helps to retain long term staff and reduce job turnover rates.
Are Remote Teams’ Part of The New Normal?
Remote teams are most likely here to stay. Many companies have realized that many of their job descriptions can be done from anywhere and not necessarily the office. For them, it means they can downsize their rental spaces and save on overhead costs. Workers no longer have to brace heavy traffic on their commute and can actually be very productive working from the comfort of their own home. It also helps to ensure the safety of staff and limit the risk of contracting Covid-19, helps with social distancing, and assists staff who have children at home due to the closure of schools.
Working remotely does require some getting used to and one of the main things needed is structure. Having a remote team strategy in place can help shape structure to a remote ‘workday’. With structures in place, remote teams stand a better chance of being an efficient way to work and keep operations going, especially in times of lockdown or quarantine periods related to the global pandemic.
Implementing communication strategies is vital for remote work to be successful and efficient. Making use of the many technological and software advances available not only makes getting work done more reliably and thoroughly but also helps to bridge the communication gap of working away from the office.
Employees don’t have to feel isolated from their team members because they can reach out to them at any time of the workday. These tools also provide an option for after-work team interactions where colleagues can check in on each other and discuss personal topics or provide support.
As long as people are communicating, work moves smoothly, problems are solved quickly and the workflow is productive and high in quality. Managers may also be able to connect more with their teams and get to know and understand them in a different way than a fast-paced workplace setting.
Knowing your team, understanding and appreciating their efforts as well as rewarding outstanding performance not only boosts your business but also enables you to be a better, empathetic and efficient leader with a loyal and progressive staff.