How to Foster Healthier Communication in Remote Teams

Working remotely can yield numerous advantages. However, for teams that are accustomed to working side by side in a physical office, the shift to remote work may create unique challenges on the communication front.

Communication and Remote Teams

If someone were to ask whether you believe good communication is vital to the success of your business, you would answer in the affirmative; no reflection needed. But if someone were to ask you why it’s important, you might not come up with such a swift answer.

That’s because most business owners and managers probably don’t take the time to study communication and track the results. The truth is, it plays a fundamental role in every facet of your operations.

Communication helps to build and maintain relationships, facilitate innovation, and shape your team. “If open communication within a workplace is encouraged, a more cohesive and effective team will emerge,” Australian Institute of Business asserts.

“Good communication within a team also tends to boost employee morale. When employees feel that they are well informed of the company’s direction and vision, they will feel more secure within their role.”

Excellent communication is no less crucial in a remote setting … though additional roadblocks and friction may make it more challenging to achieve. If you want to keep your team on the same page and moving toward shared goals, you have to account for this and plan around it.

Four Tips for Effective Communication in Remote Team Settings

Though the central tenets of effective communication remain true regardless of the mode or medium, the specific ways to foster healthy team communication in a remote setting are somewhat different from those for a physical office.

The following are four key suggestions:

1.     Set Expectations

When a team initially goes remote―or whenever a new employee is brought on board―there’s often confusion about how things will look or function. A good leader will reduce as much of this friction as possible by setting expectations from the start.

Employees need to know when regular meetings will be held, when they’re expected to be available, which communication modes are preferred, and how quickly they’re expected to respond to emails/calls/texts. These might seem like minor details, but they put your team in the best frame of mind.

2.     Choose the Right Modes

You can set up your team to be successful by supplying everyone with appropriate communication tools. For dispersed remote teams, a modern intranet can minimize the friction that can arise from back-and-forth dialogue. 

3.     Develop an Internal Language

“Every business organization has its own language: Doctors, lawyers, plumbers and others all have specific terminology unique to their profession,” NBRI explains.

“For example, doctors have patients, lawyers have clients, and plumbers have customers. They use these and other not-so-common terms that are specific to their industry to create understanding and a sense of community within their individual organizational structures.”

Your business has its own internal language, whether you realize it or not. But perfecting the language so it’s smooth and efficient takes work.

Make sure your team is using the appropriate terms in the correct context. If you notice inconsistencies, call them out and correct. The stricter you are with regard to use of terminology, the less confusion is apt to develop.

4.     Establish a Cadence

In a physical office there’s a daily cadence; an ebb and a flow, if you will. Employees trickle in at 8:30 a.m. and perhaps there’s a morning meeting half an hour later. After the meeting concludes, employees break to do their work until lunch.

For remote teams, a lack of structure can become problematic and inhibit efficiency. This is why it’s helpful to establish a consistent cadence. Don’t weigh your team down with unnecessary meetings, but try to create a rough and predictable framework so everyone knows what’s expected of them.

Set Your Team Up to be Successful

Your business is composed of people: individuals who possess unique strengths and weaknesses. If you hope to make your business more successful, you have to ensure the individual parts (the people) get the opportunity to operate at their peak performance.

It’s difficult for your team to be as efficient as it can if communication isn’t clear and streamlined. Our hope is that the techniques described in this piece have provided you with some practical insights and motivation to enhance your remote team communications today, tomorrow, and into the future.