Visas and Work Permits — 4 min
As more companies leap to full or partial remote working models, they must adapt their systems and ways of working to match. 41% of employees who have switched from in-office to remote work rank communication as the most significant challenge they have faced.
Communication is more important than ever when you don’t see your employees daily. Managers who communicate well have the power to improve employee engagement and motivation, make workers feel included, and boost productivity.
Read on to set your business up for success through 15 effective communication tips for remote employees.
Why does communication matter when it comes to your company’s performance? Good communication can be hugely impactful on your business growth. Here are some of the ways getting communication right impacts performance:
Employees feel part of the team. Building connections and rapport with team members encourages collaboration, fulfillment, and engagement with their work.
Employees can ask for help. Ensuring that adequate channels are open helps employees ask for help when needed, understand their tasks, feel more confident, and get better results.
Clear communication saves time. Mastering clear communication avoids unnecessary back-and-forths and misunderstandings.
Fewer mistakes. With communication systems in place, there is less ambiguity around tasks and less chance of error.
Communication motivates. Employees who know they have a daily or weekly progress check-in are more likely to complete tasks on time than those who communicate solely via email.
With no signs of remote work declining, how can you future proof your business? How can you make sure your communication methods are the most effective they can be?
Online meetings are important when you work with a remote team. However, typically professionals waste 31 hours a month in unproductive meetings, so ensuring efficiency in conference calls is vital.
A meeting agenda lists the key topics and discussion points in a meeting. It can help you increase efficiency and clarity without getting sidetracked by irrelevant issues. To effectively create meeting agendas, we suggest the following:
Create a list of meeting discussion points and goals in advance.
Use action language to guide actionable solutions.
Add the agenda to the meeting invitation and share it with the entire team beforehand, so they have time to prepare.
Have someone take notes and fill in the agenda during the meeting.
Assign any action points to appropriate team members with a deadline.
If you are working on a project needing significant collaboration or guidance, don’t hesitate to schedule daily meetings. The same goes for new team members or teams that rely heavily on daily collaboration.
There’s no bigger productivity killer for an employee than not knowing how to progress and feeling like they can’t ask for help. Daily team meetings can help keep everyone on the same page and ensure that the project is moving in the right direction. It can also help employees build rapport and feel connected.
When your team members are not sitting across from each other in the same room, they must have some real-time communication channels.
Real-time communication helps eliminate periods of unproductive time where employees are waiting on others in order to progress. It can increase engagement as employees feel more connected to each other. It also allows for regular feedback and recognition, helping employees feel guided and on track.
Choosing the right technology is vital for real-time communication. Our favorite tools are:
When you work remotely, you cannot rely on organic collaboration. You must actively schedule time to collaborate virtually. This is especially important if work and results rely on brainstorming. Bouncing ideas off one another is vital to idea generation, creativity, and innovation. Work-from-home communication may involve collaborating via zoom calls or using real-time remote collaboration platforms and project management tools.
People thrive on routine. Therefore, as much as possible, it is an effective strategy to replicate in-office schedules at home by setting up clear and managed communication routines.
Your communication plan for remote employees may vary from team to team, depending on the type of work you undertake. However, whether you work with a daily meeting, a weekly one, real-time messaging, collaborative technologies, or designated available periods, communicate expectations from day one.
You may need to hammer home adherence to these communication norms during the initial period. But once they are second nature, they will save the whole team stress and improve time management. They will create standards for how to communicate at work and ensure the company can run smoothly.
When you see someone each day, you build a level of trust. You might share stories while working together on a project and bounce ideas off each other. Therefore, an additional challenge for management or HR is fostering a positive team atmosphere, trust, and rapport. With a remote team, you can do this through remote team-building activities.
How can you take on team building remotely?
Sharing in meetings. Allocate time at the start of meetings for personal sharing and bonding. Perhaps ask each person to share one thing from their week or have an open discussion.
Full-team video calls. Host video calls for the whole team so everyone can see each other’s faces, introduce themselves, and share something about their work.
Online office games. From quizzes to typing speed games to escape-room team games, schedule time to help people bond.
Creating guidelines around communicating remotely can help you implement effective communication policies for all team members.
Guidelines might lay out:
Preferred remote communication methods
Expectations around when employees must be online, available, and responsive
Coping with differences in time zones
Responsibility for specific tasks, files, and communications
Rules around video meetings and, if missed, subsequent access to any recordings
A surefire way to make employees feel respected, welcome, and more productive is to tailor your communication method to them. Ask them how they prefer to work, and within reason, stick to it. Perhaps they prefer to have open communication, or perhaps constant contact distracts them or stresses them out. They may prefer to respond to emails in their own time or have daily calls.
Being flexible in your approach can help each employee be most effective in their work. It will also improve employee happiness and, in turn, loyalty and productivity. When working remotely, a small tailored gesture can go a long way.
When you work remotely, especially in different time zones, coordinating team video calls can be a challenge. Make it a policy to record important calls and make the playbacks available. This way, if someone can’t attend, they don’t miss out on the information. Even those who did attend can watch back and refresh on any important points when necessary. Another benefit of recording calls is to educate or inform new employees with important information.
Virtual communication will naturally have multiple challenges. It is vital you do not ignore these challenges, but identify them early on to combat difficulties. Do you recognize any of these common barriers? Here’s how to solve them.
No emotional connection or facial expressions. Introduce at least one weekly meeting video call so you can easily gauge tone, emotions, and facial expressions and discuss any issues.
Language barriers. Companies now outsource to many different countries, which could lead to language communication problems. You may need to install systems of communication that don’t use language, have local managers with dual language skills, or use translation technology to communicate.
Time zones. Create systems that don’t halt progression while waiting for others in other time zones. Keep calls to a minimum to focus on asynchronous communication, but make sure to check in via video call at a convenient time every once in a while.
Unclear roles. Make sure each team member’s role and responsibilities are 100% clear and shared with the whole team, so everyone knows who to go to with problems.
Technological issues. Use the same tools and platforms across the whole company and have backup procedures in place should employees experience technical issues or lack of access.
Remote employees cannot chat by the water cooler, grab lunch together, or head for after-work drinks. When team members know and like each other, they are more likely to feel fulfilled, collaborate effectively, ask each other for support, and feel more loyalty to the company. Now they must rely on virtual communication skills to bond.
Why not try some of the following ideas to help employees get to know each other on a personal level:
Messaging channels. Start a messaging channel where people can share good news, interesting updates, or non-work-related news.
Set up virtual coffee meetings. Randomly choose two team members to have a 15-minute virtual chat each week. Provide chat prompts if needed.
Have a team social. Set aside time for 30 minutes to an hour. Invite people to grab a snack or a beverage at home and join a virtual chat to get to know each other in an informal setting.
The quickest and most effective way to improve communication is by asking for feedback. Your employees are the ones who can give you relevant and real feedback for your specific situation.
Ask employees openly about the following:
How they prefer to communicate
If they feel they have enough communication and support
Whether a single tool provides what they need
You might ask employees through a poll, a survey, a slack channel, or even individual calls.
According to one study, 40% of managers said they had low confidence in managing workers remotely and lacked trust in their employees’ competence. While it is essential to keep up productivity, micromanaging can lead to a toxic environment.
Allowing workers space and autonomy to complete tasks can empower them to feel more invested in the role and do a better job. If you are concerned about ensuring tasks are completed without micromanaging, try the following:
Make employee roles and duties extremely clear
Schedule regular meetings to discuss progress
Implement desired results and KPIs within realistic timeframes
Make it clear that you are available for help and support when needed
A company culture where employees fear to ask for help or admit mistakes can be deeply damaging. Fostering an open culture can encourage employees to own their mistakes and improve communication skills at work.
How can you create an open culture remotely?
Update the team regularly. As management, you should lead by example. Share regular updates about the company with your team and make them feel involved.
Ask your team for ideas. When you host meetings and one-on-ones, ask employees for their opinion and feedback… and actually take them on board and take action.
Make communication a habit. Open the floor to questions and feedback after every meeting or have an open slack channel to make communication second nature.
Finally, remote managers set the tone of communication for your team. As you won’t be available in person in the office, you must create an alternative to make employees feel they have a support system. For this, you must be reachable. Making yourself available will increase trust and make workers feel valued. If you can’t be available at all times, create certain hours when employees know you will reply to questions.
Hiring remote employees comes with many challenges, particularly communication. Effective communication while working remotely is vital to achieving peak business performance and success.
The key is to develop alternative systems to ensure that collaboration, feedback, support, and personal rapport can all still occur with ease. Luckily, modern technology, tools, and strategies can help you along the way. We hope you found some ideas to encourage an open and effective culture of communication that will help your business.
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