With quick research, you’ll notice that the biggest struggle for remote teams is communication. How we express ourselves and share information. Here are 8 practical tips how to improve team communication.

1.Communication Methods must have a Designated Purpose

With all the communication tools and apps out there, it can be easy to add a bunch of them to your team’s workflow to encourage plentiful communication. But sometimes more isn’t better, and having too many communication methods can become chaotic.

When communication is a free-for-all rather than strategic, tools that are supposed to be time-savers and efficiency-boosters can turn every minute into an opportunity for conversation.

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This kind of constant distraction can take a serious bite out of team members’ workday, and put a damper on their focus and productivity. But the antidote to communication overwhelm is simply giving each tool or platform a specific purpose. Instead of leaving it up to team members to check in with co-workers on Zoom, Slack, or BaseCamp, maybe designate Zome for live chatting or urgent conversations, and Slack for messages that aren’t pressing, with a designated channel for fun or informal conversations.

When employees have a game plan for how to best get in touch with teammates for each situation, everyone can avoid wasted time, frustration, and missed connections.

2. Calendaring and Task Management Tools

When team members aren’t all in the same location—and may be working very different hours—special care needs to be taken to keep track of when people are available and what’s getting done, especially for projects that require contributions from multiple people.

Sharing online calendars or schedules, posting updates about availability and time off, and using references like Every Time Zone or World Time Buddy when planning meetings or other team activities can all be good practices.

Or opt for a multifunctional tool like WorkSmart to keep your team on track: managers and their reports can sync their calendars, see who’s working at any given time, track time and productivity, and more.

3. Set up a virtual “water cooler”

In an office, getting to know your co-workers is automatically built into the environment. You spend most of your week together: working side by side, eating lunch together, commiserating over tough projects, chatting around the proverbial water cooler (or the vending machine, or the ping-pong table, or whatever it is most offices have these days). Teammates are bound to get to know each other personally to some extent.

But for distributed teams, that’s not necessarily the case, and you have to be intentional about creating opportunities for camaraderie. How do you do that for a virtual team?

By creating an online space (a chat room, blog, Facebook group, etc.) for sharing non-work-related and just-for-fun content. In addition to keeping those distracting cat GIFs and weekend recaps out of work collaboration channels, it also helps reduce the feeling of distance between team members and create a sense of community.

For example, here at PurpleRain have a seperate channel on Slack just for fun, sharing GIFs, jokes and office banter.

4.Check-ins and milestones

Managers are often understandably concerned about knowing whether their remote reports are really working. When you can’t stop by someone’s desk for a quick update, how will you keep track of important projects?

Making a progress-tracking or to-do list app part of your team’s workflow can give you some peace of mind. Not only can it serve as a motivational and accountability tool, but it can also function as an asynchronous way for team members to stay updated on tasks and projects.

Some popular options to check out include Trello, Asana, Todoist, and Basecamp.

5. Celebrate successes

When employees are working alone from a home office, they may not be aware of what’s going on with the rest of the team. Or they might even feel like their work goes unacknowledged.

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This feeling of disconnect is preventable. Keep up team morale and reward good work by publicly recognizing accomplishments—both at the individual and group level. There’s nothing that energizes a team more than feeling that they worked together to accomplish something.

6. Watch your tone

One of the biggest pitfalls of written communication is its susceptibility to being misinterpreted or misunderstood. Without visual and verbal cues like facial expression, body language, intonation, and other signals we use to determine meaning, messages can sometimes come across as terse, angry, or rude when they weren’t meant to be.

That’s why it’s worth going the extra mile to review each message before sending it off, maybe writing a little more than you might be inclined to—over communicating—just to make sure your meaning is as clear as possible.

Many remote teams find that using emojis can sometimes help humanize, clarify, or lighten up the tone of a message, but of course this will depend on your company’s culture and what is or isn’t considered professional.

Summary

As you can see, communicating effectively with a remote employee, or a team of remote employees, doesn’t have to be difficult, you simply need to think smart about the most effective way to talk to them.

The aim of the game is to make sure that everyone understands everything and is on the same page early and consistently throughout the project, minimising that dreaded risk of error.

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Anushka Pandey
Anushka Pandey