Remote work- the dream of many is a reality now! No exhausting commute, no gossip from the colleagues, no chatter, no angry boss face!
Ah! It’s bliss, right?
Well, wrong! Remote work ain’t all sunshine and rainbows! You can ask any remote worker, and they will tell you how it can sometimes be challenging.
Do you know that 20% of workers struggle with communication and collaboration while working remotely? And, more than half of the remote workers admitted that they feel disconnected from in-office employees.
Effective communication is an essential element in every company. But, remote communication is the most challenging thing you’ll ever do while working remotely.
Adopting a remote work culture is not as easy as it sounds. With our experience, we have listed some challenges you might face while managing your remote team. Also, we are giving you some actionable tips to communicate well with your team, who’re working remotely.
So, without further ado, let’s dig in!
What is Remote Work?
This COVID-19 pandemic has created a remote work revolution all over the planet. Remote work has drastically changed the map of traditional workplace culture. Remote work is the new normal that connects employees, business members through telecommuting, and advanced technology. You can connect with your team members from the comfort of your home without sacrificing your work performance.
A virtual office comes with loads of benefits for the employees. From flexible work hours to uninterrupted productive work, remote work is a boon for every company.
But, is communication between the team members a priority when working remotely?
Remote Work Communication Issues You Might face
Efficient remote work communication is always a priority. And, when you are working with a remote team, communication is the most vital thing. Social relations are essential to maintain a healthy work culture and teamwork. But in remote work, your team has no chance to engage socially.
That’s why if your company is moving towards remote work, communications become much more critical for your team. When you work remotely, you’ll face some common issue like:
Lack of Face-to-Face Communication
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face with your remote teams is the lack of face-to-face interactions. Most of the human communications are done just using our body language. Words play a significant role in communication, but expressive body languages are essential to express your feelings. Your facial expression is capable of showing how excited, enthusiastic, angry, or serious you are.
Unfortunately, with remote teams, you can’t use body language correctly. A study by Statista suggests that approximately 35% of the employees face issues while collaborating with clients. Nearly 28% of the employees feel disconnected from work.
Remote work communication mostly happens via calls, emails, and chats. Even video calls are not enough to read the facial expressions of your team.
Technology is the heart of the remote teams. Every remote worker depends on technology blindly to work and communicates effectively. But difficulties in using technologies are a common issue while remote working. Virtual meetings across different countries in different time zones can create a lot of havoc! You may face malfunction with the network connection, software, and other technologies.
On top of that, technology and connectivity are not the same in every corner of the globe. Poor network connection or technology can be a pitfall in your virtual meeting. Technology dependency, while working remotely, creates lots of trouble for the remote team.
Collaboration can be a Nightmare
Collaboration can be a nightmare for remote workers. You can’t arrange in-person meetings to discuss collaboration projects. The inability to communicate face to face creates several barriers in remote work. You can use video conferencing to conduct these collaborative meetings, but technology difficulties cause a lot of trouble.
Staying Connected is Not Easy
Many remote workers face loneliness while working. When you work in-office, you can gather passive work information from your co-workers. When you are working in a traditional office, you can easily stay connected with your team members.
But in remote work, staying connected is not easy. You have to depend on chats, phone calls to get an idea about what’s going on inside the office. As a result, staying connected can be a challenge for you.
Strategies to Enhance Remote Work Communications
Every problem comes with a solution, and our lists have some actionable solutions for you. Scroll down to know some strategies you can use to master your remote work communications:
1. Be Prepared
Every work comes with its own set of obstacles, and remote work is no exception. Especially if you are new with remote work adapting this new culture can be difficult for you. Before starting your remote work, create a mind map to tackle all the challenges you might face while working.
Having a clear idea about the obstacles will help you to face these problems quickly. Consider challenges like collaboration, communication, and technical malfunctions. It will help you to come up with quick solutions when it’s needed.
2. Set Up Communication Channel
After adopting a remote work culture, the first thing you should do is to decide the communication channel. Mails and phone calls are not enough to communicate with your team; you will need more effective remote work communication modes.
Confused to decide what communication channel you’ll need to manage your remote team? then you can ask yourself these simple questions-
- Is it necessary to call your remote team or not?
- What types of meetings can you do completely via Email?
- Is there any need to share a common screen or dashboard with your remote team?
These questions will help you decide what kind of method will be the best choice to manage remote work communication.
3. Regular Check-ins are Essential
Regular check-ins are essential to have effective communication. So, plan regular check-ins using video calls to share ideas, go through work improvement, and hang out. Regular check-ins are good for morale-boosting and indicating the potential issues beforehand.
You can use daily activity reports to track the check-ins and work-progress of your remote work team.
4. Invest in communicative Technology
Employees are dependent on technology; without it, remote work communication is impossible. Invest in useful tools and software such as a remote office phone system to experience accessible, fast, without interruption in team communication.
You can use several shared software with your remote team to coordinate marketing and other workplace campaigns. Google Doc is another good old pal of remote employees. You can efficiently work together with your team on Google Docs.
Collaboration while working remotely can be a real hassle. But thanks to the collaboration tools like Skype, Trello, Slack, you can collaborate with your team efficiently. However, there isn’t one perfect tool or software available for remote work. You can determine what works best for you according to your work needs.
Here’s a list of tools & software you can use to communicate more seamlessly:
- Chat Tools: Google hangouts, Slack, CA Flowdock, Twist,
- Project management tools: Trello, Asana, Basecamp, Podio, JIRA, Scoro, Workzone, Notion
- Video & Web Conferencing Tools: Zoom, Google Meet, Cisco Webex, Krisp, Google Hangout
- Collaboration Tools: Evernote, Adobe XD, Google Doc, Marvel, WebEx, ProofHub
- Screen Recording Tools: Screenflow, Loom, Camtasia, OBS Studio, Bandicam
- Scheduling Tools: Calendly, Doodle, Meetingbird, Hubspot Meetings
- Workflow Automation Tools: Zapier, Microsoft Flow, Integrify, Fastflow
You should give the responsibility to search and select the right tool for someone from your team. Once you’ve chosen the right tool that suits your work, ensure every employee uses them correctly.
5. Use Visuals to Explain any Working Process
When we were in school, our teachers used to teach us using diagrams and pictures. Do you know why? Well, because images are easier-to-digest than boring text-books. You can remember 10% of what you hear, 20% of what you read, and 80% of what you see.
Sometimes when we are unable to understand something, visuals can work wonders to explain everything. Similarly, in remote work, your team members can have difficulties understanding the work process. A diagram can be an easy solution to this problem. You can use flow diagrams, flow charts, simple icons to explain things adequately. Also, visuals will save you time as you don’t have to spend hours explaining everything.
You’ll get several data visualization tools such as Zoho Analytics, SAP Analytics Cloud, and Domo. Google Doc has some great free templates to create and share engaging information. Moreover, visual tools for project management like SwiftKanban, Miro, are perfect for remote workers.
6. Create a Remote Work Culture
In remote work, one thing that everyone ignores is the company culture. While in an office, you can maintain a positive work culture easily by communicating with your colleagues. You can share a bond over a quick chat while doing lunch or having a cup of coffee.
In remote work, you can celebrate your company work culture by organizing digital hangouts or events. You can organize several fun digital activities like quizzes and polls. Why work has to be boring, right?
Digital hangout events are a perfect opportunity to know your team members and chat about life and things outside work. It will help to create a bond between the team members. Moreover, you can encourage your teams by sharing Employee of the Month cards and infographics.
7. Set Clear Guidelines & Policy
When you have to manage a remote team, it’s essential to create a communication guideline. In remote work, you have to manage employees from different locations. Organize a video conference with your team members and explain to them about your communication expectations.
You can determine a communication policy by considering a few things like:
- What will be the perfect time to communicate with all your team members?
- Will there be any logging or log off hours?
- How long is it considered as okay if someone is not responding to a video or phone call?
- What will be the accountability methods?
Deciding a clear communication policy or guideline will help to set some ground rules. A clear guideline will help you to avoid any miscommunication in the future. You can put the guidelines in a written format and share it with the team.
8. Avoid Sending Boring Texts
Nobody is interested in reading a long boring text about work. When you’re working remotely, there’s a big chance that your team members will skip the entire text.
Instead of sending long, boring texts, use images, charts, graphs, emojis, colors, infographics to make it more engaging. You can use templates to reduce your workload in creating these texts. There are several apps and designed templates available online to make your information more digestible. For example, Canva, Picmonkey, Stencil, Google Doc, etc.
However, don’t go over-the-top while using visuals. Follow the ‘less is more’ mantra to keep the engagement right in place.
9. Don’t schedule Unnecessary Meetings
In 2016, people spent 163 billion minutes on conference calls only in the US and UK. Another study suggests that business people waste nearly 15 minutes just to start a video conference or avoid distractions.
When you’re managing remote work communication, don’t schedule team meetings unnecessarily. Organizing regular team meetings can be unproductive and a total waste of time. Of course, team meetings are essential, but you should determine which meetings are necessary and which are not.
Without a proper agenda, or clear objective don’t schedule a meeting. And, setting a time limit in the meeting time can be a real time-saver for you and your team members.
10. Set your Agenda and Priorities
Before starting a video conference, set a clear agenda to ensure you are covering all the vital points. You can send the written agenda to your team members before starting a virtual meeting.
This will help you and your members to communicate smoothly and know what to say in the meeting. Just like creating an agenda, you should set a priority to understand what’s more crucial to discuss. Failing to establish a clear agenda and priorities can result in a communication disaster while meeting virtually.
11. Set Limitation in the Number of Participants
It’s not necessary to set a meeting with every team member. You can limit the participants to conduct a more efficient virtual meeting. Try to take only the essential members who have a role to play or need to contribute to the discussion.
Limit the number of participants based on their agendas and work priorities. Divide your members into groups and encourage every member to participate actively.
While working remotely, team members can forget what you said in the meetings. That’s why you can record the vital sessions from your conference and later share it with the members. Even people who were unable to present at the conference will get benefited from this.
12. Use Internal Messaging Tools
Every remote organization should use an internal messaging tool for effective communication. The chats you have with your team members should happen on a particular platform.
An internal messaging system will allow your team members to communicate quickly without spamming their chatbox or emails. You can connect with your team members even if they are in different locations.
There are several effective messaging tools available online. From Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Chat, to Discord, you can select the right app accordingly.
13. Educate Your Team to Avoid Miscommunication
In this digital world, everyone is habitual in sending short quick notes to communicate. Sometimes using shorthand abbreviations can create miscommunication among the team members.
You don’t have to be a grammar nazi to encourage everyone to use proper writing. Make sure they are writing appropriate texts to avoid any misunderstanding.
14. Be Empathetic
Lastly, you should remember remote work can be an entirely new thing for many of your team members. They all have different learning curves, and maybe some of them are not that tech-savvy.
Make sure to be empathetic towards all your team members while working or managing them remotely. Kindness and empathy will develop a healthy, trustable atmosphere, even in your virtual work team.
Recently the MD of Microsoft Ireland, Cathriona Hallahan, stated that they are providing online sessions to their employees with a nutritionist and mental health workshops.
‘It was about really understanding from an empathy perspective what our employees needed’
– Cathriona Hallahan, MD, Microsoft Ireland
Millions of people and organizations are adapting to remote work culture. It is rewarding if you put constant effort into it. Lack of communication can create difficulties in grasping work. So, pay more focus on planning each team meeting strategically using the right software and technologies. With the right tools, plan, and video calls, you can enhance remote work communications and build an efficient team like a pro!
Remote work can be a blissful experience or a horrible nightmare! It all depends on how you are handling your team. Despite all the terrible communication issues, remote work is a blessing- as long as you know the secrets for managing it well.
If you have the patience to tackle a remote team, it will offer you endless flexibility, work-life balance, and productivity.
So, what are your plans? Remote or not?