Right now, many of us are struggling with unusual work conditions. The spread of COVID-19 has forced millions of employees to adopt work-from-home setups, and that can pose a real challenge when it comes to communicating effectively with the rest of the team.
In this post, we want to focus on sharing 10 essential tips for keeping remote communication strong, despite the quarantine and social-distancing practices that most of us are facing. These tips will guide you through this trying time and encourage everyone to keep the ball rolling, even when work environments are non-traditional.
1. Decide On Communication Channels
As soon as you adopt a remote work situation, the first thing you’ll need to do is set up and define the communication channels. Although email and G-chat might have been enough while your team was in the office together, you’ll likely need more explicit modes of communication now that everyone is scattered.
To determine what kind of communication channels you’ll need, ask yourself the following questions:
- When will video calls be necessary or beneficial?
- What type of meetings can be done purely over email?
- Will we need to share screens or a common dashboard?
- What’s the best way for us to keep chats in a centralized location?
Before you even begin researching the different communication channels out there, you’ll need to isolate your biggest needs and determine what kind of communication methods will help your team stay productive during this period.
2. Choose The Best Collaboration Tools For Remote Teams
Fortunately, there are dozens of stellar tools for remote teams out there that can give you the communication channels you need. From Skype to Slack and Trello, examine the various software out there to determine which would serve your specific needs best.
As shown in the screenshot of Wrike, task management and collaboration tool, you can use different channels to monitor the progress of projects while closely discussing important details. Not only does using a tool like this keep everyone on the same page, but it also encourages smart organization.
However, there isn’t one “best” communication channel or tool for every business. You’ll need to experiment with a few to find the platform that works best for your specific needs, communication methods, and project types.
3. Set Guidelines
You might not have needed explicit communication policies in your office space, but now that you’re managing remote employees from different locations and working in isolation, guidelines are very important.
Host a meeting with your team to relay communication expectations and responsibilities. Are certain teammates supposed to check in on the hour? Do others need to send updates on certain projects daily or weekly?
Other things to consider in a communication policy:
- What is the time off policy for remote workers?
- Are there core hours when everyone needs to be available to communicate?
- What are the methods of accountability?
- How long is it “okay” to go without responding to a chat or call?
- Are people responsible for logging hours or reporting work?
Determine what your communication policy will be during this time. Put it in a written format and send it to employees, but also discuss the expectations via an audio or video call to ensure everyone understands how remote management will work.
4. Schedule Regular Audio/Video Calls
Don’t wait until a communication gap or a misunderstanding happens to schedule your next meeting. Instead, plan meetings for regular intervals so everyone stays on track, even when they’re not sharing a space.
It doesn’t matter if you’re doing weekly Monday meetings or sessions at the end of each project. The key is to keep a regular schedule in place so that communication doesn’t suffer. This will also give people the opportunity to voice opinions and concerns on a more frequent basis, leading to a more efficient workflow and happier teammates.
Take a look at this graph from SalesLoft:
This might help you determine what time is the most productive for your team to schedule video or audio calls. You might also want to take a poll with your team members to figure out what days of the week typically work best for check-ins.
5. Avoid Unnecessary Meetings
When you’re dealing with remote team communication, meetings can be an even bigger time waster than they are in the office. Scheduling a call, getting everyone to log onto the right platform, and dealing with technical difficulties can all make a usually productive meeting a real pain.
Even in normal office settings, up to 33.4 percent of meeting time is considered unproductive by participants. Imagine how that number can change when meetings are even more difficult to schedule and get through in remote situations.
Obviously, meetings are essential – you can’t be productive without convening with your team on a regular basis. However, during this time, we encourage you to think about what meetings are actually necessary. Try to limit the amount of time spent in meetings that could be handled by a quick email or chat session.
6. Advocate For Proper Writing To Avoid Miscommunication
There are a time and place for shorthand abbreviations and quick notes – and this isn’t it. When your organization is adjusting to remote team productivity, it pays to over-communicate.
Even if your team isn’t full of grammar experts or professional writers, leadership should encourage everyone to use proper writing to ensure that all points are conveyed thoroughly and accurately. When using communication channels, write out everything both – for documentation purposes and to ensure there are no misunderstandings.
You’ll also want to keep in mind that in text conversations, comments can be perceived differently than they would be in an in-person conversation. There’s not much room here for sarcasm or jokes – you’ll need to keep things positive, proper, and fully detailed to ensure everyone understands.
7. Decide On Agendas In Advance
If you really want your meetings to be efficient, you need to walk into them ready to tackle the necessary topics quickly and thoroughly. That means deciding on a meeting agenda in advance.
Before the meeting even begins, send the written agenda out to everyone so they’ll understand the schedule of the meeting. This will help communication flow smoothly and ensure everyone knows when to present their ideas and what order to tackle each topic.
Not sure what needs to be on the agenda?
Reach out to team leaders to learn what they think the topics need to be and what order they’d like to tackle them in.
8. Set Priorities
Similar to setting an agenda, you also need to define your priorities in a virtual meeting.
What do you hope to accomplish?
What are the most important topics to discuss and results to find?
If possible, communicate your priorities to others so that everyone in the meeting understands what’s essential to discuss. Different people might have different priorities. Figure out how you will decide which topics to address and which to save for another meeting or a small chat.
Failing to set priorities in advance can lead to a jumbled meeting in which everyone is voicing different opinions and concerns without true purpose.
9. Limit The Number of Participants
Although company-wide meetings have their purposes, they might not be the most productive when everyone is working in different spaces. Our suggestion is to limit the number of participants in each meeting to ensure the best efficiency.
Ask yourself who is really essential to each meeting. Try to cut down on the number of people who are just there to listen in or who might need to contribute. You can always catch them up later if necessary.
Segregate your team members based on their respective agendas and priorities. Then divide them into small groups and encourage them to schedule meetings accordingly.
10. Record Important Team Meetings
When you aren’t speaking in person as much, it can sometimes be difficult to remember exactly what was said in a meeting. That’s why it’s smart to record important sessions and organize these recordings in proper folders with labeled dates and topics.
This way, you can always refer to your past conversations or send out audio clips to people who aren’t present at the meeting.
Almost any video conferencing service will allow you to record and download the meeting. You can usually start and stop the recording, only grabbing what you really need to preserve for future reference.
Millions of people from all over the world are adapting to remote work situations. As a result, many teams are learning how to effectively communicate and meet without sharing a space.
Hopefully, the tips above will help you and your team continue to collaborate and converse despite the unusual work circumstances. Focus on making each meeting worthwhile, using the right tools, planning, and including the right people in each call.
At E2M Solutions, we’re huge advocates of remote work – and we know that you can learn to communicate effectively – regardless of where you and your team are working.