Remote work is no longer some peculiar concept no one has heard of. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 4.3 million people worldwide now work from home. And 80% of employees would like to work remotely some of the time.
Companies, in turn, seem to have a positive attitude towards the idea as well. For example, Buffer, a social media software company, has a team distributed all over the world. And, it looks like they have got the hang of the remote work culture. Buffer has reached the retention rate of 91%.
Yet, while employees willingly embrace the opportunity to work remotely, they admit that communication with the team can be a struggle. Lack of context in digital communication leads to misunderstanding and even resentment. And, not being able to participate in the office meetings results in the employee feeling left out.
To improve communication with your remote team and keep their morale up, stick to the following rules.
Make Use of Digital Tools
When it comes to online communication today, there is no shortage of tools. All you have to do is test them and decide which ones work best for your company. Here are some tools that can smooth communication with your remote team:
Daily Online Chat
Slack is a favoured work chat solution. When in the case of a remote team your communication is not synced, you can rest assured all the decisions are recorded in the chat. There is an opportunity to create channels for different projects. You can include a small group of individuals or the whole team there.
Stand-up meetings can be run in Slack. At a certain time, your remote team can share updates on their work, so everyone else is in the loop.
Need to get an urgent message across to each employee regardless of their Internet connection? Enter good old text messaging.
Writing a text to each employee manually can be time-consuming. So, it is only reasonable to use a business texting service where you input the message once and then send it to multiple recipients.
Zoom is a video call platform and a mobile app allowing the participation of hundreds of employees. You can record your video meetings and share commentary while someone is presenting the information.
Develop Communication Guidelines
Together with your remote team, decide when to use which communication channel. For example, there is an idea you’d like to run by your employees and it is not time-sensitive. It might be better to send an email than ping them in chat. If every team member starts sharing all their thoughts in chat, it will result in constant chaos and distraction. So, the solution is to develop rules — what channel to use on which occasion.
Also, teach your team to contextualize messages. For example, instead of leaving a dry “Yes” reply, elaborate by adding that you can’t talk at the moment as you are on a commute.
Incorporate the Open Door Policy
This policy means that you encourage feedback and questions from your employees. When you welcome your new remote employee, let them know that you are always open to hearing them out.
No idea is a bad idea. This approach will benefit the company because it never hurts to consider a fresh viewpoint. And, it will make the employee feel valued.
Don’t Make Any Eleventh-Hour Decisions
If you have a remote team, most likely some or all of your colleagues are in different time zones. So, asynchronous communication is inevitable.
If there is an issue that needs the opinions of all team members, last-minute solutions are out of the question. You can’t make a decision while half of your team is still asleep. So, everything needs to be pre-planned. If you have to collect feedback from your remote employees, send out an email at least one or two days before you need to receive the answers.
This rule sounds like a pain in the neck. However, you can’t deny the following benefits:
- in this kind of communication, there are no rushed decisions
- there are no ‘stop and chat’ meetings. In the office, when you want to know someone’s opinion now, you walk up to their desk and interrupt their work process. The person then loses the concentration they might’ve tried to achieve the whole day
- the remote employees are never left out of making important decisions
Make Everyone Hop on a Video Call
Some companies make the following mistake. They start an office meeting and then add the remote employees on a video call on a big screen. This puts the latter in an uncomfortable position.
- remote employees can’t read the facial cues of the colleagues in the office, so non-verbal interactions are out of the question for them
- if someone in the meeting room makes a joke and everyone laughs, the remote folks feel left out
- those in the office can delicately interrupt to ask a question. It is often harder to do the same for a remote worker
The solution is to put everyone on the video call. It might seem weird at first when everybody in the office is sitting at their desk while on the call. Yet, it’ll put the whole team on an equal footing.
Create an Opportunity for Your Remote Team to Bond
According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work Report, 21% of remote workers struggle with loneliness. It’s understandable — they don’t have a team they can joke with over a coffee. However, your task is to make them feel a part of the team. Here are some options:
Create a Slack channel for non-work communication where your employees can discuss hobbies or even exchange silly memes.
Schedule time every week for sharing personal news. Some offices like to order pizzas on Friday. Well, you can run a “Virtual pizza” video meeting.
If there is an event scheduled for office employees, think of event options for the remote ones, too. You can provide funds for them, and those employees located in one city, can get together and run their own event — go bowling, play paintball or whatever. These micro teams can record videos and share them in chat afterwards.
Smooth communication with your remote team implies being ready to hear them out and including them in all decision-making processes. Setting boundaries is important as well. Create rules for when to use which channel, and how frequent communication can occur. And don’t forget about bonding. Whether an employee is working remotely or in an office, everyone deserves to be a part of the team.