3-Key Steps to Better Communication with Remote Teams

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Here we are in 2024, remote work isn’t going anywhere, and we need to keep enhancing how we are communicating with our remote teams!  

As of this year, remote work trends have shown a stabilization since the pandemic’s peak, with 14% of full-time employees working fully remotely, while a significant 29% are engaging in hybrid work arrangements. [Source: https://remotepad.com/remote-work-statistics/]

30% of people believe that remote team’s communication with clients and co-workers has become more of a challenge in the past 12 months. [Source: https://findstack.com/resources/remote-work-statistics]

By 2028, it is predicted that 73% of all departments will have remote workers, highlighting the growing acceptance and integration of remote work into standard business practices across various industries. [Source: https://findstack.com/resources/remote-work-statistics]

Yet, despite this stabilization both leaders and their remote teams struggle with communication.  This is understandable! 

Communication has always been a key challenge, even when we were in the same office – and now that we can find ourselves dispersed around the town, around the country – or even around the world we have to be even more intentional and skilled in this area.  

Here’s 3-key steps you can take right now to get better results.  

Step 1. Establish Clear Communication Protocols

I remember how awesome it once was to be able to just pop my head around the corner, when I had a quick question. Or, how effective it was when I could just  have an impromptu hallway or coffee room chat with a teammate.  In remote settings, we need to do our best to mimic this dynamic.  

By setting these protocols and ensuring they are clearly communicated and accessible to all team members, you lay the groundwork for consistent and effective communication.

Here’s some quick tips you can put into play, right away…

Start with talking to your remote team to pinpoint the top two or three most crucially preferred types of communication for them. 

  • This could range from having the ability to virtually tap someone on the shoulder for a quick question, to understanding each member’s preferred communication style (e.g. chunking of topics in a daily email vs. real-time individual questions). 
  • Do they need to have a better understanding of communication preferences among their teammates?  (e.g. does one team member prefer chunking topics in an email once a day, or do others respond better to one question at a time throughout the day.)
  • Of course, It would be unrealistic for each and every team member to have unique preferences, however – achieving common ground on a few preferred communication methods can begin to mimic how things might look in an in-person office environment.  

Next – define preferred platforms and each one’s purpose for different types of communication. For instance, emails can be reserved for non-urgent, detailed information –  while chat, text or Voxer types of messaging may be best for quick questions – and team meetings reserved for longer, deeper conversations.

And lastly – Be sure to consider time zones and personal work schedules. Establishing “core hours” where everyone is expected to be available can help in synchronizing team efforts. 

Step 2. Choose the Right Communication Tools

There are a number of options that can boggle the mind when it comes to deciding on the right communication tools to choose – yet the importance of making good decisions can’t be understated.  

The #1 thing I encourage you to do is to avoid just going with what’s popular – but instead take some time upfront to really analyze what it is you need from your communication platforms, get consensus from some key people, get some feedback from the team as a whole – just in case there’s something that may come to light that you and your key people didn’t think about – and then make your decision.  

[Trust!!!  The extra time you spend upfront on doing a thorough analysis will pay off in dividends down the road.  ]

Here’s 5-key things to consider…

Understand Your Team’s Workflow and Communication Style.  Map out your team’s workflow and Identify the stages where communication is most frequent and crucial – and then incorporate their preferences, as discussed above.

Evaluate the Complexity of Your Projects.  Understand the complexity and types of projects and initiatives that your company has in play – as this will directly impact the level and complexity of communication that your team will need to manage.  

Consider Integration Capabilities.  The goal here is to ensure that information flows smoothly between different applications.   

Prioritize Security and Compliance.  Cyber threats will continue to be a problem and therefore, be sure to consider security measures, when selecting communication tools.  You’ll want to ensure that the tools are compliant with various industry standards and regulations – depending on what you do and where you do business.  

Foster a Culture of Open Feedback.  Be willing to make adjustments based on this feedback to ensure that the communication tools continue to serve the team effectively.

Explore the Unconventional.  From visual collaboration tools that greatly enhance remote brainstorming sessions, to tools that allow people to record quick messages that can be viewed, asynchronously, brainstorm with your team and think about all the unique ways you want to communicate, beyond the traditional.   

Training and Support.  Lack of support and lack of training leads to lack of confidence, which in turn leads to resistance in using the tools you’ve invested in.  So…take this extra step.  You won’t regret it.  

Step 3: Foster an Environment of Openness and Trust

Saving, what I consider to be the most important step to last, is creating a culture of openness and trust.  Don’t just post that you have an “open-door policy” somewhere and leave it at that.  Live it out everyday in your business. 

Having your team rooted in the confidence to speak openly and the assurance that one’s voice will be heard and respected is the most important communication tool of all for your remote teams.  

Make space for this in both specific times, specific channels and for specific purposes.  

And, as I always advise – don’t recognize and reward based on what you think your individual team members would like – but instead on what you know will make them feel valued, because you’ve communicated with them and either asked them or listened to them..  

BONUS

Implement the Steps and Measuring Success

A few final tips to leave you with…

  • Introduce these changes gradually
  • Clearly explain the reasoning behind the changes
  • Gain buy-in as you go
  • Set your KPIs and measure, measure and measure some more.  (e.g. # of misunderstandings, overall team satisfaction, channel / platform usage, conflict resolution).

Hey! I'm Pam

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