Remote teams rely on different digital platforms to keep in touch with each other. While these tools are great, communication remains one of the weak points of remote work.
The pandemic triggered a never-seen-before shift to telecommuting and researchers were keen on finding out how it affected work. One key finding in a study that analyzed work data of 61,182 Microsoft employees is that communication suffered when employees worked from home.
However, with the right approach, you can boost your remote team’s communication and collaboration. This post will show you ways to achieve better communication and teamwork among your WFH employees.
1. Make Meetings More Productive
According to a 2017 study of top business executives, 71% of respondents agreed that meetings are not productive and efficient.
No doubt, you need meetings as a remote team to function, deliberate, and foster communication. But if you don’t do it right, you’ll be costing your business financially and reducing your workers’ productivity.
So, it’s critical that you reshape how you approach meetings.
Let’s show you some tips on making meetings more productive.
Engage Team Members
Ask your team members what they think about your current meeting policies. Let them tell you what they believe should be preserved and things they think should go. Ask them how meetings are currently affecting their work and what they think should be done about it.
Reduce the Number of Meetings
Regular morning meetings with no clear objectives can bore team members and make them hate meetings altogether. So, if there’s no reason for bringing the team together, don’t call a meeting. You can also replace meetings with email messages or Slack DMs in some cases.
Allow Team Members to Handle Meetings
You can rotate who handles weekly or bi-weekly meetings. This way, you’re breathing new life in these sessions and giving team members new things to look forward to. You’re also introducing nuance into the process, allowing workers to define how meetings run.
2. Define Your Communication Channels and Choose the Right Tools
One of the first steps to take in boosting communication is choosing the right channels to use. You can consult your team and ask them which platforms they prefer using.
You should also consider the right tools. Ensure you use apps that support multiple operating systems, so all your team members can be covered.
Moreover, using a single communication channel can wear out your remote team members. Diversifying how you keep in touch with each other can boost engagement and motivation to communicate.
So, while you determine the right communication tools, don’t stick to just one or two.
Prevent Zoom Fatigue
Zoom fatigue is a state of exhaustion caused by constant virtual video-based meetings. The condition is a synonym for video conferencing fatigue.
According to research, constantly seeing yourself on a screen during video calls can be exhausting. That’s because seeing what you look like in a square – as most video chats are displayed – is unnatural. According to the researcher, you’re more critical of yourself when you see your reflection.
The study also posited that excessive close-up eye contact with your screen can be exhausting and staying in a fixed position hurts mobility.
So, to reduce Zoom fatigue, reduce the amount of video-based virtual meetings you schedule and use audio and text based meetings sometimes.
3. Use a Virtual Water Cooler to Boost Team Spirit
Getting to know coworkers and socializing is easier in a physical office. That’s because people get to see one another in person and spend weeks together. They get to have lunch together and bump into each other in break rooms and around water coolers.
It’s different for remote teams. Colleagues only get in touch through meetings and it’s always business.
So, you can maintain a non-work communication channel to encourage workers to socialize.
A non-work channel helps to boost your team’s social mood. Apart from that, it ensures your official channels are not cluttered with random chatter that doesn’t concern office work.
You should promote frequent use of this channel by engaging workers there from time to time. That way, they know it’s okay to use the channel.
4. Organize Team Building Activities
Another way to boost the social mood in your virtual workplace is by organizing fun activities from time to time.
Scheduling these sessions will help strengthen your team’s bond and make them collaborate more like on-site teams.
There are many crowd-pleasing activities that you can use to fire up team members and make them freer and friendlier with each other.
Some virtual team building activities include:
- Office tours where workers show colleagues their workspaces
- Online video games where you can divide workers in competitive groups to face off
- Virtual icebreakers where workers take turns to share what challenges them and makes them happy, especially about work and life
- Quiz Battles and Trivias where workers engage in asking circular questions using points systems to rank winners and losers
- Virtual parties to celebrate occasions like birthdays and promotions
5. Avoid Micromanagement
Technological developments have made oversight and monitoring easy undertakings for remote managers. With these powerful tools at your disposal you may be tempted to always check up on workers and dictate how they approach and execute their tasks.
Also, over communicating your expectations and process can make you seem overbearing.
This management style can cause communication breakdown as workers will start avoiding you and expressing themselves less.
So, resist the urge to over communicate and dictate how workers do their jobs. Show them that you trust them to follow instructions by not repeating briefs and objectives.
6. Reward and Recognize Employees
Employees enjoy working where they’re appreciated. Recognition makes them feel like part of the workforce and reinforces the idea that their work matters. As a result, they’ll be motivated to do more to help the company grow and will be more interested in building relationships with their colleagues.
On the flip side, when workers feel they’re not appreciated enough, they begin to withdraw and feel isolated. It gets worse in remote teams as unrecognized employees may start to feel like outsiders and begin to work in silos.
So, always make the conscious effort to recognize remote workers whenever they reach a milestone or make a significant contribution.
The best time to recognize and appreciate hard working employees is in front of other workers. You can do that during the start of meetings.
Private praise is also encouraged as it boosts morale in its own way.
7. Train Workers on the Best Email Practices
Emails remain a core part of business communication that will stay with us for a long time. That said, they can be distracting.
So, teach your workers to block out a period in their workday to attend to emails. They should use apps like Freedom to keep email notifications at bay so they can focus on work.
Then they can respond to less important emails during their less productive hours. Ensure they make only the right exceptions for critical correspondence.
8. Make Sure Documentation is Easily Accessible
Always ensure your team members can get their hands on the resources and tools they need without going through too much bureaucratic processes.
9. Conduct Check-Ins
Regular check-ins help you stay on top of things and up-to-date. However, you may begin to seem irritatingly high-handed if your check-ins become too frequent.
So, schedule the check-ins in moderation and form a policy where workers can voluntarily update you on work progress.
You can also use time tracking to keep tabs on workers so you don’t have to disrupt their work.
10. Encourage Asynchronous Communication
There are two main types of communication: Synchronous and Asynchronous.
Synchronous communication involves exchanging thoughts and ideas in real-time, often face to face. Asynchronous communication, on the other hand, involves sending and receiving delayed communication.
Since remote team members work far away from each other, they’ll have to get used to the reality of asynchronous communication.
While they can engage in real-time interactions through audio and video calls, you can encourage them to leverage instant messaging apps for delayed correspondence.
Tell your team members that it’s fine to see messages and reply to them later when they’re less busy. This method is best suited to non-critical work enquiries and updates.
Using asynchronous communication means team members are not distracting each other in the middle of work.
11. Ensure Team Members Can Always Reach You
As a leader, you should keep the lines of communication open so workers are comfortable expressing themselves to you. This way, you get to know the goings-on in the workplace and can collaborate with them to shape better policies.
12. Make Communication a Part of Your Work Culture
Right from the moment you onboard new recruits, make it clear that communication is one of your company’s core pillars and a vital part of your culture. Ensure that every remote employee aligns with your views on communication and won’t hesitate to reach out to a colleague when they face even the slightest issue.
You should also attach a penalty to mistakes that could be avoided if a worker reached out to a colleague.
Key Takeaway: Collect Regular Feedback
Always schedule one-to-one interviews with workers to get their takes on the general work environment.
You should also send out surveys and questionnaires that should be answered anonymously. This way, workers can speak freely about what they think of the company’s state of communication and what they believe should change.