Importance of Developing Effective Remote Team Communication
Effective communication entails a detailed and nuanced understanding of work-related tasks and processes by all team members.
The main components of effective communication are:
Quite often, employees are given access to information only on a need-to-know basis. This is an understandable approach regarding sensitive data, but getting staff acquainted with the current goals of your company is beneficial for a variety of reasons. First of all, it builds trust and a sense of belonging. Second, it enables a company to truly benefit from the creativity and knowledge of its employees. With the bigger picture in mind, they can offer innovations and more efficient ways of organizing their workflow.
- Feedback management
It is vital to encourage your employees to provide their managers and colleagues with meaningful feedback. Managers should respond to every feedback, even if briefly.
- Idea generation encouragement
Idea generation should receive particular praise. If a certain idea cannot be implemented, managers should explain to the person who proposed it, in a friendly and respectful manner, why it is not suitable. It is also important to reward people whose ideas have benefitted the business.
- Professionalism and mutual respect
Regardless of position, every staff member must respect others. No insulting personal comments should be tolerated, as this creates a toxic work environment.
- Security (data encoding and decoding)
Team members often share information and documentation that might be classified as it can be used against company interests. Therefore, any communication channel used by employees for work-related issues must be secure.
How to Manage Working Team Process Remotely
Managing the working process remotely can feel like a challenge, especially considering that many have little to no experience in it. The COVID-19 pandemic stimulated the demand for tools that can make it easier to communicate online and manage remote work processes. Here are some examples of communication tasks that need to be resolved for efficient remote communication:
- Setting communication norms and imposing limitations
It is recommended to set norms and boundaries that must be followed by all team members. The company should choose a particular messenger for work-related online communication, set a time frame when people are allowed to send reports to each other, and choose a platform for video calls as well as tasks management.
Depending on your preferred management style, you might want to limit the use of jargon in working chats or set dress code guidelines for online meetings. Your team members should be able to concentrate but not feel repressed.
- Establishing task management standards
One of the most crucial parts of creating a strong remote communication corporate strategy is the establishment of clear task management standards. Every person must understand what they need to do and what deadlines and priorities are. Some of the popular programs that can help with this include Goalton, Jira, and Notion. They can be used for task and data management, with each harboring many useful functions.
- Favoring video calls over texting for important discussions
While trying to communicate every little detail over a video call might be impractical, when it comes to important issues, nothing can replace the ability to perceive your interlocutor’s body language.
Prominent video-conferencing platforms nowadays include Zoom and Google Meets. There are slight differences in the functionality of the two programs. For example, when comparing free versions of two apps, Google Meets can serve up to 250 participants for 60 minutes and Zoom — up to 100 participants for 40 minutes. On the other hand, Zoom offers customizable backgrounds and appearance-enhancing features.
- Holding one-on-one meetings
Even if you can’t see each other all the time, it is important to spend time discussing different topics privately, whenever possible. This strengthens bonds between different team members. For a manager to communicate with an employee individually creates opportunities to learn their ideas and answer their questions.
Not everyone participates in group discussions. It should not be viewed as a personality flaw, but rather a peculiarity. Those people who prefer listening should be first in line for one-on-one chats with others.
- Implementing time-tracking tools
Knowing how much time it takes to do a certain type of task can help managers to create realistic schedules, deadlines, and target objectives. Another benefit is the opportunity to identify areas that might be optimized for more efficient time management. Some of the well-known time-tracking pieces of software are Clockify and Toggl, with the latter being slightly more expensive for larger teams but offering extended functionality.
- Establishing contracting norms
Hiring has never been easy. You have to sift through the candidates trying to distinguish which one is the best fit within a limited time frame. Having to conduct interviews online doesn’t make the process easier. But it does offer HR experts and managers access to a much larger scope of candidates, as location seizes to be an issue to consider.
To make the whole process smoother, it is recommended to establish clear standards for contracting remote, in-house, and part-time employees, specifying how contracts should be formalized and approved.
- Don’t overmanage or micromanage
Micromanagement presents many perils, and yet it is a mistake made rather often, especially by those who are new to managerial roles. It stresses out both the manager and employees. Remember, it isn’t necessary to demand reports on every little action — just the important results.
Don’t constantly observe employees doing their tasks; it reflects your lack of trust in their abilities. But remember to be open to any question that they have. This way, whenever someone is unsure of how to act, they will ask.
How Online and Offline Team Communication Differs
Online and offline modes of communication have their advantages, disadvantages, and peculiarities.
Offline communication is what most people are used to. It enables team members to spend more time discussing all the aspects of work-related issues and use synergy to come to mutual results. Working at the office also allows to hold meetings using whiteboards and projectors, and it can boost relationships between team members. Many people feel more focused and concentrated when at the office.
On the other hand, constant noise from your colleagues’ discussions can and does feel distracting to many. Working from home offers many advantages, from saving time and money on commuting to the possibility of working from abroad. Communication, however, might be a challenge, if not executed properly. When it is done right, one can leverage the many possible benefits of online cooperation.
One of the biggest advantages is that all online communication can be logged and cataloged for later referencing. Another benefit lies in the fact that written reports tend to be superior to oral ones, as an employee can structure their thoughts better. Online communication has fewer emotional implications and therefore can be more logical and unprejudiced.
Online team communication can compete with the offline kind and even be more effective and comfortable if all the important details are considered.
Necessary Communication Skills to Master
Team leads and managers need to have particular skills to make team communication effective and boost working results. Some of those skills are:
- Active listening skills
Yes, team leads and managers are usually more experienced than their employees. After all, they were selected for those positions for a reason. But thinking that your vision is always the best one can lead to lost opportunities. Managers should listen carefully to every team member’s point of view, without automatically assuming that it reflects their own.
- Readiness to encourage and manage feedback
At the risk of reiterating, feedback is important. It can help to make sure that everyone is on the same page as well as provide valuable insights.
- Teamwork and the ability to delegate
The responsibility for the project’s success ultimately lies on the project manager or the team lead. This makes some of them falsely assume that all the important work must be done by them personally. It is important to organize effective teamwork and delegate various tasks to employees according to their capacities, which are often underestimated.
Learning to understand the motivation, interests, and aspirations of your colleagues and subordinates is vital for effective communication and management. That includes finding out what your teammates hope to achieve in their professional life, what tasks they enjoy doing the most, what they dislike or fear. Knowing this can help a manager to elevate hesitancies and keep all the team members productive and satisfied with their work.
Effective team communication is an integral part of every successful business. Currently, many companies struggle with a concept that is new for them — online communication.
Even though the change for most was necessitated by external forces, such as the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, it can be turned into an asset. Working from home and remote communication has many advantages for management and employees alike. For example, it dramatically expands the pool of candidates for vacant positions, as managers are not limited by geographic reach anymore. Employees save time and money on the commute.
For effective online communication, it is important to ensure transparency, mutual respect, and the security of shared data as well as to encourage idea generation and feedback. Some of the useful techniques to achieve this are the establishment of communication, contracting and task management norms, the implementation of time-tracking tools, and the prevalence of video calls and one-on-one meetings.