It is the age of remote work. For one reason or another, people are incentivized to work from a place that is not directly connected to their original work environment. There are plenty of benefits that come along with it. Flexible schedule, better work-life balance, lack of commute and many others. For business owners, this means fewer expenses overall. No longer do they need to pay for office space, electricity, equipment, etc. On the other hand, there are some challenges that come with remote work.
Employees are no longer next to each other in a common workplace. They are not communicating directly, and this can cause problems. Communication methods are limited. There is a lot more room for misinterpreting written words. When we eliminate body language and spoken voice, we are severely limiting our natural communication. Luckily, people always find a solution. Let’s go over some methods in optimizing communication.
1. Dedicated communication channels:
Planning is everything. This also holds true for communication. It is important to plan out the way our teams are going to communicate. This means setting up multiple channels that serve different purposes. You will want to hold online meetings, set up collaborations on different projects and facilitate regular office communication. Thankfully, the technology of today empowers us in this endeavor. We are a highly connected society and the possibilities are endless. Software tools and platforms are aplenty. The important thing is to select ones that are right for your goals. Look at the offerings that are in front of you and make an educated decision. Each piece of software has its advantages and disadvantages. It is up to you to wage one against another and pick the best option for your team. Research the quality of the software and user feedback. These are usually the best indicators.
2. Types of online communication:
Asynchronous communication is the backbone of all distributed teams. This is especially important for teams spread across different time zones. Asynchronous means that the conversation is not happening in real-time. Instead, it happens whenever a person’s schedule allows for it. An example of this is when one person leaves a note in a messaging application. This note will sit there and wait for the recipient to see it.
The participants can read and reply at their convenience. Naturally, this is best used for endeavor’s that are not time-sensitive. Email, direct messaging applications and management platforms such as GitHub, Trello and Basecamp are the prime examples. A combination of such platforms usually serves us the best. Leverage these applications in the correct manner. Only then can you achieve the best possible outcome. Furthermore, you will reduce the drawbacks of remote work when it comes to online, non-direct communication.
3. Synchronous communication:
As you might have guessed, this is the other side of the coin of online communication. This is when people agree to communicate real-time, using the same method. It can be two people or a conference transaction. It can be in writing or voice. The original form of such communication is a simple phone call. It has been around for quite a while. Today, technology gave us plenty of other options. All of these options owe a great deal to the original invention. Synchronous communication is the best option to take when things need to be carefully choreographed. Or when we need to ask questions and get instant responses. Lastly, it is the best option to take when participants need to brainstorm an idea. Active feedback benefits only from such a form of communication. Think of live chats, clear virtual events and meetings, etc.
4. Being face to face:
Never underestimate the power of direct, conventional communication. It is always the best option if one can achieve it. If not, there are ways to mitigate that. Even completely remote enterprises organize an occasional meetup for individuals and teams. Sometimes the entire workforce benefits from such endeavor’s. Companies organize various activities for the employees to bond and communicate over. It helps break the ice and encourages friendly competition and cooperation, as well. Retreats, workshops, conferences, etc. help fill that void that technology cannot. It is fairly difficult to build relationships over a screen. Sharing a vision is impossible to do over a phone. Resolving complex business problems is difficult already, let alone if we have to do it over a chat application. Whenever you can squeeze a little get-together. As long as it is safe and according to regulations. It will benefit any team greatly.
5. Bonding remotely:
Building a remote team culture is no easy feat. Many of the aspects of communication and bonding are rendered inaccessible to all. Touch, body language and eye to eye contact are not a thing with online communication. Work culture comes much more naturally in a packed, traditional office. But now, since our remote working strategy has employees possibly all around the world, our methods need to change. A productive team is a question of instigating engagement. Employees need to remotely help each other out. Once again, technology to the rescue. Aside from work, there are many fun activities teams can do online. Games, fitness challenges, question games, quizzes, you name it. Engage employees to work together as a team against another team. Also, spark that friendly competition. People want to cooperate, compete and create bonds. They do it best in person. The second best option is online.
Effective communication is the number one skill to handle remote employees. To you as a leader, it is one of the most important skills to have. Set an example to be followed by all others. Make sure not to leave anyone feeling ignored. It is easy for such a thing to happen behind a screen. It is a new, online, remote world we are living in. The more we are connected, the more we seem to rely on these alternative communication methods. But the truth is that we need to learn to harness the power of online communication in the way it best serves us. Make remote communication work for you and your goals using these tips and tricks.