The work world is officially remote — and that’s a good thing. One study after another confirms that remote workers are more productive. Remote work expands the global talent pool. Virtual offices cut carbon emissions and save time and resources.
And yet, even with the remote world growing at an accelerated rate, there are still plenty of concerns that team leaders need to address to optimize their fledgling remote workspaces. One of the top issues is communication. Many remote and hybrid teams struggle to stay on the same page as they collaborate on a daily basis.
If your team is struggling to stay connected, here are a few common ways you can improve remote team communication.
1. Set Up Clear Guidelines
Healthy communication starts with good structure. This is easy to establish when a team shares the same space. When you’re scattered across different geographic regions and various time zones, it can be difficult to know how and when to contact one another.
This can lead to one of two things. Either team members will reach out with questions or comments out of office hours, or they’ll be too concerned about interrupting others to connect in the first place.
You can address this by setting up clear communication protocols. These look different for every organization. However, they should address a few key points. Establish what channels your team should use to communicate (email, texting, Slack, etc.). Select certain times of the day when communication is preferable and designate these as your “core hours” of synchronized operation. Create response windows of time, too — like responding to emails within one business day.
2. Meet With an Agenda in Place
One of the powerful benefits of remote work is the ability for your team to operate asynchronously. One team member might function best first thing in the morning, and another might prefer to burn the midnight oil. This disjointed yet connected group effort can lead to impressive results.
And yet, you don’t want to continue in this asynchronous mindset when you do come together for a live meeting. Instead, when you formally gather as a group, it’s important to create a clear sense of structure by providing a remote-friendly meeting agenda.
A good agenda should include a roadmap of how you want a meeting to go, including:
- The main themes of the meeting.
- Talking points to discuss.
- Any supporting documentation that is required.
- The decisions you need to make in this session.
- Action items to implement moving forward.
Starting each remote meeting with the right elements in place is a great way to keep your communication efficient and on track.
3. Facilitate Collaboration
Communication is a specific activity that involves two parties exchanging information over an established medium. It can take many different forms. If you shoot an email to a boss asking for time off, you’re communicating. You can network with another professional at an event, and you’re communicating, too.
If you want a remote team to improve their interactions, though, you have to remember that they aren’t just exchanging information. They’re collaborating, too. If you can streamline their ability to collaborate on projects together, you can naturally help your team communicate effectively.
You can increase collaboration in many ways, such as:
- Setting attainable goals to work toward together.
- Establishing deadlines to keep everyone focused.
- Assigning clear roles and responsibilities within your group.
- Requesting feedback to improve future communication and collaboration.
Along with addressing this concern within your team, it’s also important to think about cross-team collaboration. If your remote team needs to work with other departments at times, make sure that the best tech tools and protocols are in place to ensure a smooth and efficient experience.
4. Conduct Team Building Exercises
The concept of team building exercises isn’t anything new. In-person teams have always spent time playing games, going on trips, and otherwise engaging in bonding activities. And yet, it’s far too easy to underprioritize the team building stuff when your team is remote. But the truth is, it’s more important than ever.
If you want your remote team to communicate effectively, it’s important that you invest in helping everyone feel comfortable and connected. When team members are familiar with one another, they’ll be more willing to reach out and communicate.
There are many remote-friendly team building games and activities that you can use to bring your team together. Investing consistent time “together from afar” as a group can do wonders in improving overall team communication.
Communication is a must for remote teams. It improves engagement, enhances collaboration, and boosts productivity.
However, communication never comes easy. Even in a traditional workspace, it takes an effort to keep everyone in the conversation. When your team is operating from their own isolated workspaces, it’s even easier to become disconnected.
Use the tips above to keep your remote team’s communication functioning at peak efficiency. Use meeting agendas and communication protocols to set expectations and keep everyone on track. Focus on good collaboration as a key complement to good communication. Spend time team building to bring your team together. If you can invest in your group’s communication, the results will be a stronger team that can tap into the benefits of remote work without sacrificing communication in the process.