When tasked with leading a distributed or remote team in an organisation, you need to prioritise keeping all connections—personal and working—going strong.
Members in such units operate from different time zones while working on varying projects.
Additionally, each member will have a unique working style, making it essential for team leaders to promote efficient communication between the team. Often, remote work rarely fosters collaboration.
But in instances where collaboration is the key to the success of a given project, a leader must develop well-organised remote team communication strategies. These strategies will assist in strengthening the connections among all the team participants.
Efficient remote team communication strategies
Distractions commonly arise when isolation feelings creep in, and the thrill of working in pyjamas on the couch wears off. They can also occur when mental noise begins to increase. It’s a reality that affects all people who work in a remote team.
With time, they may start to miss the benefits linked to working in a standard team.
If left uncontrolled, the cons of working in a distributed team can negatively impact individual and group performance. To prevent this, team leaders need to identify common communication barriers in the team and institute measures to help in overcoming them.
They need to find ways to foster connections among people who rarely meet. For this, they should consider using the following 12 remote team communication strategies.
Create a shared company culture, and learn to communicate shared principles actively
Every employee wants to feel like they are part of something big and that their contributions help achieve a meaningful and purposeful vision. These are the intrinsic values you need to take and begin to impart to your team members. With a strong company culture, employees will understand better the expected outcomes and behaviours and act accordingly, even when working remotely.
Switch to video calls
Video calls are the most efficient way to improve communication between the members while enhancing their performance. Team leaders need to understand the type of differences present in a remote team, to comprehend the impact that comes with switching to video calls:
It refers to the issues that make it challenging for the remote team to create long-lasting relationships based on shared interdependency, trust, and value.
This is the noise that can hinder effective communication, e.g., bandwidth, size of the team, and different skill levels.
It refers to the physical and temporal distance that exists between the team members.
Out of the three, affinity distance has the most significant effect on the team’s long-term performance. Video calls can help the team to develop emotional bonds with people they have never met physically.
Routine video meetings assist the members to bond and build familiarity, helping them to overcome affinity distance.
Plan regular team and company-wide check-ins
Most team members cherish the idea of getting to exchange ideas or receive updates in a face-to-face setting. They need to receive this, even in situations where an actual or physical sit-in is unlikely. Such discussions become easy when you participate in weekly video meetings. It can also be a good idea to implement employee wellness program strategies to help your remote workers and ensure that everyone’s mental health is in check.
Change how the team communicates when using written text
Business teams commonly use too many abbreviations, acronyms, and business jargon. Although all these can assist in reducing the amount of text a person has to write, it can lead to confusion among those who understand them.
Simplify communication by creating a list or dictionary of abbreviations/ acronyms that team members can use. In the list, make sure to include the list of prohibited abbreviations. It provides the members with a place to look if they encounter an acronym they don’t know.
Facilitate spontaneous communication
Working in a distributed team means that team leaders can’t occasionally drop by a colleague’s desk. But this doesn’t mean that they can’t facilitate spontaneous communication. They can do this using project-related chat channels, task-based conversations, and one-on-one messaging.
Use visual aids to assist written communication
Long documents make for a tedious read and explain why most personnel only skim through them without fully understanding their content. Efficient remote team communication strategies call for leaders to learn to break these documents down using visual aids.
Infographics and charts can make long documents more pleasant and easier to read. The inclusion of images makes it easier for the employee to remember what they have read. Visual allows you to eliminate the monotony of words, allowing the reader to remain alert.
Don’t watch over the employee’s shoulders or try to micromanage them
It takes a lot of effort and time to manage a distributed team as it’s impossible to walk up to an employee to monitor their progress. Thus, some leaders resort to calling team members several times a day to monitor the progress made.
While this may prove alright for time-sensitive tasks, micromanaging your team is never a good idea. You have to remember that each person is a responsible adult and understands your expectations regarding their job responsibilities.
Ideal remote team communication strategies are those that enable your employees, as opposed to bombarding them with hourly emails and calls. Strive to make each member feel wanted and trusted. Use tools to track progress and collaborate, and resist the urge to watch over their shoulders.
Communicate your expectations and set clear deadlines for all tasks
Most team leaders micromanage their teams because they are afraid that some members may do something to tarnish their reputations. Managers who are used to working with physical teams are more likely to micromanage than their counterparts.
It’s possible to allow the team members to do their job without micromanaging by using any collaborative tool. Managers can use these tools to assign tasks, break down seemingly large projects, and set the expectations and deadlines for all the assigned tasks.
Using this type of remote team communication strategy means they will communicate what they expect from each member without calling or emailing them hourly. Distributing available tasks allows them to give each member enough room to breathe and do their work.
Decide which tools to deploy, and how to go about it
Managers have access to dozens of tools that they can rely on to track and monitor the performance of remote team members. The key lies in learning not to get carried away by their availability, which could easily land one into tool overload.
Failure to properly assess the available tools could see the team using too many tools, causing confusion. Too many tools also make it impossible for members to know which tool to use for a specific purpose and at a given time.
Additionally, most of the widely available tools come with overlapping features and functions. For example, members can use both Zoom and Slack to make video calls. In instances where both are available, which ones do they use when trying to communicate with colleagues?
Considering this, leaders need to carefully select the tools they would like members to use and provide a definition of how to use each. Failing to clarify this will force each team member to use the tool they prefer or find convenient.
Imagine a scenario where some members are using Slack while others are on WhatsApp! It will undoubtedly lead to tons of confusion and lost messages.
Respect existing cultural and religious differences
Working in a distributed team means the members will have different cultural and religious beliefs. Apart from hailing from different time zones, some members will reside in countries having different cultural and religious beliefs from yours.
A good leader should take time to learn about all the existing differences. They can use the knowledge gained from their research to develop a conducive work environment. Such an environment ought to respect and honour all these differences.
While at it, the leader should note the differences in the time zones and develop a schedule that works for all members.
Learn to use virtual team building activities
The biggest problem faced by remote workers today is loneliness. When left unchecked, the problem can increase employee turnover, drop in productivity/performance, and employee disengagement.
Loneliness may also push an employee to take certain extreme actions.
Building personal and social bonds among remote workers can assist in breaking loneliness and eliminating the monotony of working from home. The connections they make with their colleagues will enable them to communicate more effectively.
These bonds will allow them to find solutions to emerging problems and learn how to discuss pressing issues before they get out of hand. Managers can achieve this by developing regular team-building activities.
Don’t let the distance between the members limit your creativity. Urge them to engage in virtual activities for your remote team to enjoy. If unsure of what to do, conduct research online, or engage the services of a team-building company.
Prioritise empathy and connection between the remote workers
Effective communication when working in a distributed team means ensuring each employee in the team has a voice. Each member should feel that they are valued, and their opinion counts. Everything shouldn’t revolve around completing tasks.
It also helps to show empathy and care when communicating with your team. Remember that working remotely is different from working in an office. Therefore, the best way to learn what your employees need and how they are feeling is to take a moment and ask them.
Please don’t fall into the trap of assuming what they are feeling or going through. Additionally, keep in mind that what works for one team or company may not necessarily work with the next team.
Creating meaningful and long-lasting connections in a distributed team is an art form. You need to get creative when dealing with remote workers scattered across different countries and time zones.
Relying on outdated remote team communication techniques won’t help in keeping all the members engaged and productive. Providing the right set of remote communication tools supported by enlightened strategies will help in promoting a collaborative approach.
It also goes a long way towards supporting the development of real connections among your people. Using the tips listed above, you should learn to appreciate the benefits of remote communication and learn how to make the most out of them.