Remote work is increasingly becoming a popular choice among employees and companies. As of recently, 63% of companies have remote employees as part of their organization. However, a remote team doesn't just magically work. Business leaders need to take charge and make sure the remote employees can effectively work from home. Communication is one of the most essential and complex parts of having a successful remote team.
The communication needs of a remote team vary from office workers. As the leader, you need to understand the nuances and challenges of communication when it comes to a remote team environment. A lack of communication can cripple an off-site team and cause severe issues on business productivity overall.
As a business leader, you want to know some of the most effective ways to have your team communicate. For this post, we are going to go over everything you need to know in setting up effective communication.
Technology needs to be in order.
One of the most significant steps you need to take for settling your remote team into a remote working environment is by investing in tools that allow them to communicate seamlessly and efficiently. Tools like online documents, shared cloud storage, video conferencing apps, and instant messaging apps are necessary. Take the time to test out these tools and see which one of these software solutions will be used for the task everyone is going to be working on.
For instance, if you decide on using Slack for sending messages and Zoom for video conferencing calls, every remote employee should be available on those two platforms during their working hours.
One aspect of communication from home that goes unnoticed is having reliable internet communication, which is necessary for powering up every digital tool your team is using. For instance, if your remote employee is relying on a wireless router at their home, they could set up their router a bit closer to their office space to receive a better signal or get a wireless extension to broadcast the signal much further. They could also get a wired ethernet cord and attach it to their desktop or laptop for better internet connectivity.
Discussing new ideas is a powerful way to strengthen communication
Discussing work tasks should be a priority in your remote team, but communication is more than just talking about day to day tasks. Every team member has their individual interests and sharing the articles or videos you read, discover or find on the internet can be a way to not only share knowledge, but it can spark interesting conversations.
You can encourage your remote team to share any interesting article, video or lecture by creating a channel called "Random" on your Slack workspace. Discover a wide range of different topics on the online events marketplace Everytale.
Do not micromanage your remote team.
Managing a remote team can be challenging if you are not physically capable of walking up to your employees and seeing what they are doing. Some managers will attempt to call their team members multiple times throughout the day to gauge their progress. While it is understandable if you are doing this due to an urgent task that needs to be accomplished, it should not be a common occurrence. As the leader, you need to remember that your remote team members are responsible adults, even when they are working off-site.
A significant part of effective remote working is to enable your remote team members not to constantly call or message them about their work. It is crucial to ensure your remote employees are feeling trusted and wanted by their leaders and organization. To keep track of their work, use collaboration and track progressing tools. Although, make sure to resist the temptation of looking over their shoulders with overly intrusive solutions or frequent calls.
Use team-building activities
Isolation and loneliness are considered one of the most significant issues when it comes to remote working. It leads to severe issues that can negatively impact the way your organization functions. Remote employees can start to disengage from the team, which leads to productivity and performance declining over time. Eventually, a company will begin to see a rise in employee turnover.
The feeling of isolation and loneliness shall push your workers into taking some extreme actions. One of the most effective ways to prevent these feelings from arising is to develop personal and social bonds between remote team members. Set aside some time to connect with others, discussing over any issues, and finding solutions to these problems before they become severe.
Similar to how there are team-building exercises for people working in an office environment, there are activities available for remote teams as well. Managers can take some time to conduct these activities to bolster communication and bonds among team members. There are all sorts of activities that can be found on Brightful that can help with setting up team-building activities.
Greeting the employees each day
As we've stated before, remote working leads to a lack of human interaction, which is something most employees have a troubling time dealing with. It can be challenging to avoid these problems entirely, especially when it comes to working distantly from each other. That said, you can help your remote employees feel more connected with each other even while they are physically apart.
An excellent way to pull this off is by encouraging everyone on the team to speak to each other in the same way they would if they were in the office. As the leader, you need to set an example, so start this trend by saying good morning to your employees and make some time to chat over morning coffee. It will help your team feel less like they are drifting apart from each other.
Expectations and availability
As your remote team starts to develop their own schedules and habits, you need to set expectations regarding when work is due each week and how the work needs to be delivered.
Leaders need to understand that working from home leads to plenty of distractions than the average office workplace, such as taking care of children or family members. However, leaders need to establish deadlines that take into account the challenges remote workers are dealing with at home. That can develop open communication when it comes to tasks and priorities.
A way for you to manage expectations is by establishing regular availability and remote working hours. Even if your team is not physically available in a single location, there should be a standard time where everyone is digitally available in the same space. That permits opportunities for open communication channels and more chances throughout the day to work on team goals.
To ensure your remote employees are communicating and overcoming any issues each day, leaders should take the time to host a daily team meeting each morning. Through video conferencing calls, use the team meetings to discuss important project updates, weekly goals, and anything that needs to be discussed. Try to keep the gatherings to half an hour or less and ensure that it is not taking away too much work time from your remote employees.
Since meeting in person is unlikely to be an option for many remote teams, hosting meetings where you can see everyone's face is the best possible option. Hosting video meetings through platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Google Hangout can assist with opening up communication lines, foster social interaction, and keep remote employees engaged. The video calls are also excellent for ensuring everyone is paying attention, which means you will not have to waste relying on redundant information later.
Celebrate team and individual achievements
When everyone is working in an office space, it can be normal to see people celebrating things like birthdays, events, and achievements. However, most remote teams forget to celebrate since it is much harder to do so when separated from each other. Most people think there is no point in celebrating a birthday with their remote team when they can’t even cut the cake. Or celebrate even where they can get together and have fun at the office or go out for a meal together.
Excellent remote teams usually find a way to still do these, even if it is something as simple as singing a team member happy birthday or sharing pictures about a recent event they attended outside of work. These celebrations will surely lift your team's spirit and make them feel connected to each other.
Team and individual achievements also need to be celebrated. Leaders can do so by sending their team members physical cards or gifts to show appreciation. Keep in mind that people tend to connect far better with something tangible. Congratulating them the info of the team will also ensure everyone is aware of their hard work and make them strive to work harder as well knowing that they can earn similar gratitude.
Virtual water cooler
Everyone who has worked in an office long enough should be aware of a water cooler. It not only keeps everyone hydrated but also acts as a spot for everyone to hang out for a few minutes and chat about anything on their minds, from work to the recent sports game. Water cooler discussions are an excellent way for people to get to know each other and develop a relationship based on interests and values.
Fortunately, managers can develop a virtual version of this by setting up separate channels in their messaging tool for creating public discussion boards. Although setting up channels or boards is merely the start of it all. Take the time to encourage your remote team to start using it. Take the time to prompt your team into using these channels by actively participating in them yourself. While you may need to request others to take part at first, it will gradually be used by the rest of the team.
These channels can be used for a variety of things, such as sharing pictures, news, cooking tips, or jokes. Let them post about anything that is considered socially acceptable on these channels.
Communication is essential for any remote working team to be successful. As the leader, you need to ensure your team is communicative consistently and effectively. Take the time to implement these methods and check over anything that could be improved on your side.