The global pandemic in 2020 was accompanied by distancing regulations enforced by law enforcement agencies, affecting not only families and individuals, but also workers and businesses.
Many businesses were forced to go fully remote or adopt remote-friendly policies in order to get some work done and maintain decorum despite the apparent chaos in the world.
Although the pandemic significantly increased the number of people working from home, remote work and remote teams existed long before 2020. Companies had recognized and benefitted from work-from-home since 1973 when Jack Nilles, a NASA engineer, coined the term “telecommuting.”
He defined telecommuting as “the substitution of telecommunications and/or computers for commuting work.” He tested its effectiveness on a few employees in IBM, making them work from home via the phone.
Before the pandemic, people had already started creating flexible businesses that allowed them and their workers to use modern methods like wifi and zoom, and work remotely from anywhere in the world.
The advance in technology gave companies and workers the ability to not only work from home but also to be mobile while working and use portable computers like laptops and tablets to work on the go.
However, during the pandemic, most companies had no choice but to adopt remote work policies as workers were not allowed to meet in person due to distancing regulations that were put in place by lawmakers to control the virus and stop it from spreading.
Companies had tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to communicate and host virtual meetings with their workers.
Although it wasn’t a voluntary decision initially, most companies decided not to return to their pre-covid working arrangements but adopt a fully remote or hybrid work environment.
Companies observed that business boomed and their workers were more efficient and happier when they worked from home. Also, people who switch to remote work never look back, and most say they intend to keep it that way for the rest of their careers.
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What Is a Remote Team?
A remote team is a group of employees who work together to achieve a common goal but live in different geographical locations and carry out their responsibilities from an online work environment. Although workers in a remote team may be cities or countries apart, they answer to the same boss in an organization.
Remote work differs from work-from-home because remote workers do not have to work from home. They get to work from anywhere, like a cafe, a van, or even the beach. Employees can perform their tasks and fulfill work responsibilities wherever they deem fit.
When your employees work from home, they can experience flexible work hours and do not have to spend any time traveling to work or back home.
You also get to use tools like cloud-based software and video conferencing apps to communicate with your workers and create a good work environment that increases their efficiency.
Sometimes, businesses want to employ workers from different parts of the world who are not ready to move and leave the life they already have at their present location. You could set up a remote team comprising people from different parts of the world and gain access to the top talents worldwide.
Why Do You Need Effective Communication?
The importance of good communication in the workplace can not be overemphasized because it is an important aspect a business needs to fulfill to grow. Your communication level with your employees can make or break your business.
Although telecommuting has undeniable benefits, it would be useless if teams could not communicate effectively to get work done. Communication remains a significant problem in remote work, as most workers find it challenging to collaborate with other team members when they do not meet in person.
Sometimes companies explore offshore options and employ workers from different parts of the world to reduce costs. This could cause language barriers, as language differences threaten communication among team members.
Effective communication breaks down these barriers and allows team members to collaborate and perform tasks together regardless of the language they speak.
You must ensure that you adopt practices and use tools and software that encourage good communication among your team members. You should also give your remote workers training sessions that guide them on how to communicate to get work done smoothly.
Every remote team member must know the communication channels and how to use them. Here are some benefits of communicating effectively with your remote team:
Increased Employee Trust
When you maintain open lines of communication, you build trust between team members and their leaders. An excellent way to do this is to keep regular employee check-ins.
Not only does this help you get regular feedback from them, but they also start to see you less as an intimidating figure and more as a coach concerned about their well-being.
Improved Employee Productivity
With good communication, your team members build a sense of teamwork that allows them to collaborate and complete tasks on time. It makes workers willing to work together and not against each other to achieve a common goal, and this increases productivity because they spend more time finding solutions to problems.
You can use tools like Task Management Software to help your team members work together efficiently and manage their tasks.
For instance, Any.do organize your tasks and keeps track of your progress by using smart reminders to keep you from forgetting about them.
Team Members Are More Involved
Employee involvement is an excellent way to increase your business’s productivity, and what better way is there to do this than to communicate with them to let them know their roles and why they are essential.
Effective communication keeps your remote team members highly involved in processes because it ensures that they know the company’s goals and missions and how they contribute to achieving them.
More Achieved Goals
Team members get to discuss any problems they experience with their supervisors when they maintain open lines of communication. It also allows team leaders to fix the issues and improve processes when required.
You must ensure that your team leaders communicate with their members regularly and properly to achieve more goals before their deadlines.
Stronger Team Bond
How can team members collaborate if they can not relate well? You must ensure that your workers maintain good relationships that promote a healthy work environment among themselves.
When you communicate effectively with your team members, they know what you require from them and how to behave as team members. Not only do they trust you as their employer, but they also trust one another as fellow team members.
This article will discuss practical tips to communicate effectively with your remote team. But first, let’s examine the tools you can use to promote effective communication with and within your teams.
Communication Tools for Remote Teams
Slack is an internal communications tool with an intuitive UI that allows team members to communicate efficiently with each other. It is an excellent tool for all remote team sizes that enables you to create private channels for different teams to connect and collaborate to achieve a common goal.
It has an integration feature that allows you to add apps and task management software like Asana that helps your workers track their tasks and ensure they complete them on time. You can also add apps like Google Drive and Zoom to share meaningful work documents and make video calls with your team members when necessary.
Another communication tool is the Troop Messenger, designed specifically for team communication. The self-hosted application gives you complete control over all message exchanges to avoid data loss. It also provides businesses with seamless, secure, and private team communications across all on-premise servers.
Zoom is a cloud-based video-conferencing platform that allows you to host online meetings with your remote teams. It helps you keep your team members informed simultaneously and ensures that no one gets left behind.
Not only can you host live meetings with your team, but you can also record videos with the app and share them with your workers so they can watch them at their convenient times.
It is a good substitute for in-person interaction, allowing you to host meetings over video and audio calls. Zoom has an integration feature with apps and Help Desk Software like Freshdesk, enabling you to communicate with your workers and provide support when they have issues.
Microsoft Teams is a communication tool that allows you to create channels, chat with your teams, share files and resources, and make video and audio calls. It is a central messaging app for companies that primarily use Microsoft products such as OneDrive because it integrates them and makes it easy for your team members to use.
Team members can also have one-on-one conversations to interact and support each other on this platform. You get to have day-to-day conversations with your teams and keep them updated without sending too many emails that could cause clutter when you use this app.
Asana is a project management software that allows remote teams to communicate effectively while carrying out tasks and projects. It helps you to break big projects into small tasks to let your workers know what to do next.
You also get to assign these tasks to your workers and monitor their progress.
Since it is cloud-based, it helps store your files and data for easy management. It promotes employee communication by letting you prioritize tasks to let your team members know what is most important. It helps your teams to meet project deadlines.
Google hangout is a good messaging tool for remote teams of all sizes. It allows you to communicate with your teams via messaging or voice and video calls. Team members can also interact with each other by using the one-on-one feature to chat.
This communication tool is easy to access and understand, especially for people using Google apps like Gmail. It has an integration feature for other Google apps, enabling users to access it from their desktops and mobile phones.
It is suitable for casual conversation and allows workers to collaborate and solve issues in a relaxing work environment.
11 Practical Tips for Communicating Effectively
Avoid Unnecessary Meetings
You need to organize virtual meetings with your team members to communicate effectively and get feedback from them when heading a remote team. Although using video-conferencing tools to have face-to-face meetings is tempting, you must avoid scheduling unnecessary meetings.
Host meetings only when you have to and invite only the employees who are required to attend. You risk wasting time waiting for team members to join the sessions when you ask too many members with no business attending meetings.
Too many meetings delay task completion because team members spend more time discussing the tasks than working on them. You should consider alternatives like emails and task management software to keep your employees updated and assign tasks when necessary.
Use Visual Aids
Long documents and files are boring to read and difficult to understand without visual aids to support them. You should use tools like charts and images to support your text information.
Workers would retain more information faster when you convey them through relevant images.
Graphic design software like Canva provides infographic templates that you can use to summarize long words and documents into easily understood images that workers would absorb at a glance. Infographics also help you support your teams by serving as a mini knowledge base when they have issues.
Visual aids make communication easier and help your team members understand the information you are trying to pass on to them. It also helps them to complete tasks and projects faster because they spend less time trying to read and understand long documents.
Use the Right Tools
It would be impossible to have a remote team that comprises members from different cities or possible countries without technology. Online tools and software are the foundation of remote teams.
You must ensure that you use the right tools to promote effective communication and keep all your employees involved regardless of where they live or their language.
Video conferencing software like Google Meet helps you to communicate effectively and host video calls. Tools like these are essential to keep your workers updated daily and know what tasks they have to perform. Employees are also motivated when they interact with other team members and understand that although they work from different locations, they are not alone.
However, assigning tasks to your teams and tracking their projects makes project management software equally crucial. You get to hear what your employees have to say, and speed up process improvement.
Train Workers To Use Tools
What use are your tools if your workers do not know how to use them? You must ensure that you train your workers enough for them to know their way around applications and tools for everyday communication.
For Example, Linda, a member of your team, has to join a meeting on Zoom, but she does not know how to maneuver the application and ends up wasting so much time that she misses essential information from the meeting. This causes a delay in the communication process as she has to ask again what she missed.
You could use video capture software to create visual guides to help your team members understand communication tools and how to use them.
For example, Snagit helps you communicate more effectively with colleagues by allowing you to capture your screen quickly, add additional information, and share in various output channels.
Create Online Office Culture
Company culture is essential to ensure your employees have a healthy work environment. It promotes healthy relationships among your team members and ensures they understand one another regardless of their cultural differences.
Introducing fun activities like virtual hangouts helps create a healthy work environment for your workers. Employees’ relaxing together and having fun in digital events find it easier to collaborate to achieve common work goals.
Employees should also get recognition when they have been outstanding to motivate them to work harder. You could celebrate your employees with an employee of the month infographic to show them that you appreciate their hard work.
Set Clear Expectations and Deadlines
There would be no fear of missing deadlines when you communicate effectively with your workers and let monitor task completion processes. Workers know what you require from them when you set clear expectations and deadlines.
Set clear office working hours and ensure that team members understand that although they could be at home, they must attend to their official responsibilities and tasks during that period. This keeps them accountable and prevents procrastination.
Encourage team members to log off after office hours and stay off work to help them relax and be more efficient the next day. This also allows them to have a healthy work-life balance and remain productive at work while getting appropriate time off.
Many team managers in traditional offices find it challenging to micromanage team members and ensure they do not do something that will tarnish the company’s image. It is even more challenging to micromanage team members when they are scattered worldwide.
Micromanaging does not work online. You create a toxic work environment when you try to control how your workers spend all of their time. Communication gets cluttered and stressful when team members report on every task they carry out.
You must communicate with your teams and build employee trust that lets you know they will carry out their tasks at the right time without needing you to watch them like a hawk.
Create Communication Guidelines
Communication is better among team members when you create good communication guidelines that let them know what is acceptable and what is not. It helps workers know what communication tool to use for different types of conversations.
Employees know when communication channels are open and when you are available to attend to them. These guidelines allow them to see when you hold meetings and what to expect when a meeting is held on a particular application.
For example, you can hold casual work meetings on the Google Hangout app and more uptight and serious ones on Slack. So when your teams get a notification that they must attend a meeting on Google Hangout, they know they are allowed to relax and let their hair down.
Leaders should regularly keep in touch with team members to build a good employee relationship, ensuring the smooth running of teams and completing tasks. You must maintain the right amount of check-ins with your workers.
Not all meetings have to be about projects and deadlines. You should host discussions with your team members to check in and address any problems they might have. It increases productivity as your workers are happier and more motivated to work when they know you care for their well-being.
Regular check-ins also help you get employee feedback and know how far they have achieved their goals. You also get to improve processes faster and increase the efficiency of production.
Be an Available Leader
No matter your communication tools, it would be impossible for employees to communicate with you as a leader if you were never available. The consistent availability of team leaders creates unity and makes members feel connected.
It also makes it easy for them to place complaints, find solutions to problems, and complete projects faster.
Being an available leader does not only mean being present online but requires you to be attentive and empathetic towards your members and their needs. Workers should feel comfortable with you enough to confide in work-related matters.
You must be present to keep your team members on track and monitor their progress. Your consistent availability as a team leader erases all feelings of isolation from your team members, regardless of their location.
Get Employee Feedback
One of the best ways to promote effective communication is to get employee feedback. You get to hear directly from your team members what they think about their work environment, processes, and even communication itself.
When you encourage employee feedback, you make your employees feel valued as they participate in decision-making. It improves production processes by upgrading the production methods your employees use faster.
You can design polls using polling software that allows employees to contribute anonymously and choose what communication tools they find easier to use.
Although there are numerous benefits to allowing your team to work remotely, you will not benefit from them if you do not communicate effectively. To lead a remote team, you must have a good communication strategy and practices in place.
Communication is always essential, and no matter how many resources you send to your team members, you must check in with them. To do this effectively, you must provide them with the appropriate communication tools and train them on how to use them.