The transition to remote and hybrid work environments (in addition to on-site) makes open communication more critical than ever. Many managers struggle with the change to online communication. Fortunately, companies that support telecommuting have learned how to manage communication effectively with remote teams. Here are a few tips.
Set Communication Expectations
Remote & hybrid employees often have trouble with work-life balance because they feel the need to respond to communication in real time, regardless of the hour. This can increase how employees cope if they worked in an office, they could leave at the end of the workday. Set some boundaries and expectations about when a remote team should be available for communication and how long it should take them to respond (e.g., a Service Level Agreement – SLA).
Practice Patience and Empathy
Adjusting to remote & hybrid work is an ongoing process; everyone will be at different stages of the journey. Patience is key when people are becoming familiar with workplace management software and other new technologies. Try to understand each person’s home situation and allow them to adjust their work schedules when they have personal commitments at home. Showing empathy will help build team and organizational loyalty.
Rally Teams Around a Shared Vision
All employees risk burnout when they don’t feel connected to their work. This is especially true for remote & hybrid employees who don’t experience company “buzz” at the office. Managers can build team spirit by often communicating about project goals and the organization’s mission. When handing out assignments, make sure everyone understands the value and importance of their work, and how it contributes to the big picture.
Schedule Virtual Face-to-Face Meetings
Isolation is one of the major disadvantages of remote work. Having a team that’s geographically separated is not a good reason to cancel meetings. In fact, they’re more important than ever. Conference calls where everyone works on something else at the same time are a thing of the past. Instead, use video conferencing to bring team members together for face-to-face conversations.
Use a meeting agenda to avoid wasting time, but be sure to allow everyone to discuss their issues and status. Some managers schedule daily meetings to track team goals and progress. This can be very useful, providing the discussion is kept short and doesn’t interfere with team scheduling. With the aforementioned said, occasional face-to-face meetings remain very important to help create the human-to-human relationships in ways that video conferencing cannot always do.
Strengthen Teams with Personal Connections
Building personal relationships with coworkers makes it easier to communicate and collaborate. This may only happen organically with a remote team if management takes the initiative. Make time to share personal news at the beginning or end of video conferences. Find out about team members’ families, interests, hobbies, and all the other things that make them unique. Be proactive about friendly, non-work-related communication.
Keep in Touch with Casual Communication
In an office, team members can engage in casual conversation when they see each other in the hallway and break room. While you can’t duplicate this experience for remote teams, you can make time for informal communication. Encourage group chats and virtual coffee breaks via video conferencing. Schedule online social events and play some games. Getting to know each other helps remote teams connect.
Invest in Digital Communication Tools
Relying on phone and email for all your communication is inefficient in a remote work environment. Not only is it too formal, but it can also be too slow for quick contact. An internal messaging system is a worthwhile investment for any organization, even when everyone works in the same location.
These tips can help improve your communication skills, but you could spin your wheels if your organization hasn’t invested in a workplace management system. The digital task management and communication tools provided by one of these platforms can make all the difference in your teams’ remote work experience.