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7 Tips On Effective Communication For Remote Teams

Written by: Katie Hill

Remote communication in today’s world is complicated by Zoom calls, emojis, GIFs, and the infamous autocorrect.

But even before the virtual world and metaverse, communication was a funny thing. You’ve probably read a good grammar joke or two – perhaps the infamous Dear John letter or the humorous punctuation play of Woman, without her man, is nothing — versus Woman: without her, man is nothing.

Without the benefit of face-to-face contact, getting your intended meaning across can be even trickier.

Scientists say that only 7% of communication is about the words you use, while 38% is tone of voice and 55% body language.

When it comes to modern business, so much of which is conducted online, effective communication is paramount. Remote teams are the new norm, linking the best talent to the best talent, no matter what their locations. Perhaps you’re planning a project with web designers in Costa Rica, programmers in Los Angeles, and a project manager in Nova Scotia. You may be coordinating a product launch with your executive assistant in Germany, customer service reps in India, and your producer in New York. Whatever you’re doing, it’s gone global – and now you’re wondering how to effectively communicate with all your far-flung team members.

In the absence of facial expressions, body language, and voice signals, you can’t assume that your message is clear.

As a champion of remote work for more than a decade, we at Boldly always recommend that the best place to start is setting communication expectations with your team. Then, as a leader, you set the example.

Examples Of Remote Communication Expectations To Set With Your Team:

  • How will you communicate? (Slack, text, Zoom, email, other?)
  • How often will you communicate? (Do you want to hear from your team daily, or will a weekly round-up suffice?)
  • Who should communicate with whom and to what level of detail? (Can your team reach out directly to the web designer or should communications be routed through one POC?)
  • What level of formality is appropriate? (Are emojis appropriate on Slack and internal communications, but not through email?)
  • If team members are having a problem, how should that be communicated? How should team members relay feedback?

Once you’ve set expectations, follow these 7 tips to work better, more efficiently, and more enjoyably with your remote team.

Tip #1: Maintain A Visual Element

Even if your first inclination is to keep face-to-face communications to a minimum, make sure to schedule face-to-face meetings at regular intervals via Zoom, Google Meet, or your video conferencing tool of choice.

Depending on your team, this might be daily, once a week, or twice a month. Whatever your schedule, make one and stick to it.

Tip #2: Embrace Technology

Speaking of video calls, the best thing you can do for a remote team is embrace collaborative technology.

There are myriad online tools available to manage your workload, communicate instantaneously (and as a group), share computer screens, track tasks, and your progress, share files, report bugs or problems, and generally collaborate as one, fluid team.

Tip #3: Respect (& Understand) Time Differences

Time zones are one thing you can’t manage or tech your way out of – you simply have to accept and adapt to these night-and-day differences. As a general rule of thumb, try to build a team where the greatest time difference between any two members is 12 hours; that way, one can hop online early and the other late in the day for your scheduled face-to-face meetings.

Tip #4: Eliminate Micromanagement

In an office environment, CEOs and managers often follow their team members’ incremental progress, from emails sent to hours logged. A fully distributed team works differently — if you’ve already spent the time to hire the right qualified, skilled team members and have verified that they fit your culture and your values, your next step is to trust them to do their job.

However, if you’re struggling to hire a fully remote rockstar team that you can trust, read how a clandestine Las Vegas party changed Boldly CEO’s approach to hiring, or consider finding high-quality team members through remote staffing.

At the end of the day, don’t manage tasks; manage results. Use benchmarks and deadlines to gauge effectiveness and success.

Tip #5: Value Everyone’s Time

We’ve all fallen for the easy fallacy that email is the most efficient method of communication, but with virtual teams, that’s not always true.

Email chains can take days to play out, especially when team members work different hours.

Instant messaging, group chats, and video conferencing – anything instantaneous and that involves all group members at the same time – is often the most efficient way to solve pressing concerns or come to a group decision.

Tip #6: Share In Leadership

Leadership responsibilities often instill pride in a team member, thus fueling motivation, creating smoother interactions, and ultimately, producing improved deliverables. Be sure to divvy up responsibilities throughout the team, and encourage leaders to participate in one-to-one coaching and management interactions with other team members.

Tip #7: Get A Little Personal

When you work remote, it’s easy to lose the day-to-day watercooler interactions that naturally happen in an office.

Instead, you can find yourself firing off communications through email, Slack, group chats, and even video conferences that are solely task-oriented, and to the point. And while this may be efficient, it can come off as a little cold and uncaring.

As humans, we are wired for connection, and part of that comes from something as small as asking, “How was your weekend?”

Being intentional about making time for personal interactions can go a long way to building rapport, fostering teamwork, and even diffusing tension. Make an effort to get a little personal with your team. Have every team member “check in” before a meeting; they could share some photos of their kids, report on their weekend soccer game, or chat about their favorite TV shows. Create a virtual watercooler of sorts, and see how positively it impacts your work.

Going From Good Communication To Great Collaboration 

Good communication sets the foundation for collaboration and creativity. Teams who communicate well start to thrive!

As a leader, it’s important that you set the expectations and standards of communication, but this may not be your strong suit — and that’s okay.

Identify the person on your team who has that innate talent for building community and fostering teamwork. At Boldly, we’ve invested in a “Chief of Cheer,” an entire role dedicated to keeping our team engaged and creating a remote environment that builds trust, collaboration, and success.

It won’t happen overnight, but it’s worth the time and effort to get it right!

Updated on August 10th, 2022

About the author: Katie Hill is a Content Writer at Boldly, which offers Premium Subscription Staffing for demanding executives and founders. When she isn't writing about remote work or productivity, she can be found adventuring in Colorado's backcountry.