The outbreak of the pandemic has caused a major disruption in the corporate world changing its functionality almost overnight. Many activities that were otherwise deemed normal suddenly became life-threatening. While the world shifted from a state of shock to a phase of indefinite waiting, organizations around the world gradually adapted to the new reality.
Though remote working was always available as an option, it became a necessity after social distancing became a mandate for employee safety. On the whole, the prolonged effect of the pandemic has made remote working a mainstream working style, and it has changed the way companies function in teams.
Remote working – the new normal?
Major multinational corporates are progressively incorporating the remote working model into their company work culture now more than ever. This paradigm shift has redefined an ideal ‘working style’ and forced companies to rethink the actual need for physical offices.
Recent statistics reveal that 16% percent of companies are fully remote and 85% of managers believe that having teams with remote workers will become the new norm. Companies are now more open to considering remote teams as a feasible working model to accomplish their goals.:
- A remote working setup saves time and reduces expenses. The reduced expenditure of maintaining a physical office is an added advantage for companies, whereas, for employees, they benefit from fewer commute expenses or the cost of moving to a new city solely for work.
- Flexibility in terms of work timings and location are what make working from home a viable option
- Attracting and retaining diverse talent is another benefit of the remote working model
- Remote working promotes a better work-life balance for employees as they spend more time with their families. This can boost their morale and improve their productivity significantly.
However, it is also important to anticipate the challenges of being part of a virtual team working in different locations. Companies that implement the remote working model ought to closely analyze the necessary prerequisites to run a virtual team efficiently.
Investing in remote team communication strategies as well as the right project management tools are essential to successfully manage a remotely working team.
Key remote team communication strategies that work!
Effective remote team communication is a significant factor in managing a highly productive and efficient team. Companies need to implement tried and tested remote team communication strategies to improve employee experience and drive the team up the productivity curve.
Here are some of the proven practices that can positively impact the way you communicate with your team
- Proper training and guidance for team communication
According to LinkedIn’s Global Talents Trends Report 2020, companies rated high on employee training have a 53% lower attrition rate. This means employees who are given proper guidance and job training have a higher chance of staying loyal to the company.
Likewise, the remote working model can be successful if the workforce is educated on the appropriate usage of project management tools. This can significantly improve employee work performance and workflow.
Setting ground rules for communication within the team is also a crucial aspect of training. Employees need to be given clarity on how to utilize the communication tools provided to them.
- Host virtual team meetings only when necessary
Regular team meetings are an important aspect of every remote team communication strategy. It helps team leaders and employees address prevailing concerns and naturally find solutions to challenges that need the active participation of all the team members. It also helps track the progress of the team and helps in communicating major announcements or project updates.
While the remote working style began gaining momentum during the pandemic, several studies have pointed out a rise in the incidents of ‘Meeting Fatigue’ as a result of excessive video conferencing calls on platforms such as Zoom. Even though regular meetings are a prerequisite for remote team communication, it is also important to limit such meetings only when necessary to avoid tiring out employees. Video conferencing calls need to be timed and crisp in content, to pass on relevant information without taking too much time.
- Clear communication of goals, tasks, and exchange of feedback
Research by Salesforce which included not only employees but corporate executives as well as educators shows that 86% of them believe ineffective communication is the underlying reason for workplace failures.
Proactive leadership and consistent conversation are key aspects of remote team communication. When it comes to a remote team, the clear delegation of tasks is key to avoiding confusion and conflicts within the team. Team members must be given a clear idea of the ‘what, when, and how’ of completing their tasks proficiently so that the team can achieve its goal.
Managers or team leaders must be clear, consistent, and concise with the information they deliver, the primary motive is to ensure that no team member is misinformed or overloaded with unwanted information. Because improper communication can significantly impact productivity and result in employee dissatisfaction.
Feedback is a metric to measure the performance of the team and the competence of the management. Constructive feedback on the teamwork methodology and communication channels is also necessary to improve the performance of the team.
- Balance synchronous and asynchronous communication to combat digital fatigue
Several companies remain apprehensive of how to communicate to a remote working team. Lack of training of team leaders on how to handle remote team communication can impact productivity. Consequently, micromanagement becomes a daunting issue and employees feel pressured and untrusted.
This is where the use of the right mode of virtual communication methods comes into play. While traditional communication styles are synchronous (for example, phone calls and meetings), in a remote team, asynchronous communication methods are preferable for matters that do not need immediate attention. Constant use of synchronous remote communication methods like chat can hinder productivity and also disrupt the flow of work.
Using asynchronous communication tools like an email when an immediate answer is not required can help employees combat digital exhaustion. The success of remote team communication depends on striking a fine balance between communication tools.
- Invest in centralized project management & team communication technology
A major issue with remote team communication is having too many platforms to communicate. Such as emails, chat, and document sharing apps. Using multiple communication tools to share information results in data silos.
A unified technology that brings all communication modes to one place can help make teamwork easy. Based on the preferences of the team and the type of information that needs to be shared, a proper mode of communication can be used while also keeping all the data at the same place.
- Keep a fixed work schedule for remote team members
A recent study by Buffer reveals that ‘unplugging’ is the biggest challenge faced by employees who work remotely. While the prospect of working from home sounds exciting, employees find it difficult to disconnect from work even after working hours due to the workload or other reasons.
The absence of a stipulated work schedule can lead to employee burnout from being constantly on the job. For effective remote team communication, respecting the off-work timings of your employees is essential.
Similarly, if you have a geographically diverse team with team members working in different time zones, the need for a routine or time schedule is an inevitable prerequisite. This will help you make the most out of your teams by eliminating delays and establishing a seamless workflow.
- Prioritize team-building and social bonding
A team that communicates without any social barriers can exchange ideas without the fear of being judged. Good communication in a remote team is not achieved overnight; however, it can be fostered and improved with consistent effort on the part of the managers.
Team building activities that happen off the record can help keep the team connected and know each other in person. Team building activities help break the ice between team members. It helps them to know each other on a personal front and also helps in building trust. This social bonding is essential to maintaining good professional relationships and establishing an environment that inspires creativity.
Furthermore, eliminating communication barriers through team building also encourages active participation from all team members in the project. It inculcates in them a sense of purpose and belonging, both of which are key motivators to push employees to perform better.
While remote working is increasingly becoming a favorable working model, business organizations must implement tried-and-tested communication strategies to improve the quality of team communication. It takes consistent effort and meticulous planning to develop an ideal remote team communication strategy. Undoubtedly, the efficacy of a remotely working team is in the way its members understand each other and are motivated to achieve the best outcomes in a collaborative effort.