June 28, 2021
Good communication is at the foundation of any successful team. It sets the stage for effective collaboration, decision-making, and innovation. In today’s environment, remote teams are more common than ever before. But with physical proximity no longer keeping teams connected, clear communication can be challenging.
In this article, we will define 4 common issues that affect communication in remote teams, and how these can be remedied using practical solutions.
When working remotely we tend to focus only on our own tasks. As we aren’t picking up on any cues that our colleagues may need help or advice, it’s easy to become isolated or disconnected. If a team is not on the same page, it can cause disengagement and frustration amongst peers. It also increases the risk of overlapping responsibilities, as the team is not operating as a cohesive unit.
Schedule open-door hours that can be used for professional and personal catchups. It’s best to keep multiple channels of communication open for people to reach you when they need to and to have open-door time when anyone can just join for a quick chat. Your available hours should be clearly communicated with your team members, and everyone should be encouraged to participate - even if it’s for a few minutes.
We also advise managers to keep a close eye on time-logging or staff communications, this can be useful to see if anyone may need reaching out to. While you’ll want to be wary of the risks of micro-management, some employees may feel uncomfortable asking for help so they may need a friendly reminder that your door is always open.
Ultimately communication isn’t just about progress updates, it’s also about employees having clarity about how they’re performing and their general fit in an organisation. This means that managers need to be proactive in ensuring that people remain engaged with the organisation’s long term goals and values.
When employees are engaged, they view themselves as part of something bigger. Moreover, they are personally invested in their team’s professional success. This can become complicated in remote work environments, where teams are physically dispersed and left to concentrate on their own tasks.
Companies without a thorough employee engagement strategy should consider creating one while their teams are working remotely. While this should ideally be tailored to unique company values, here are some of the common components of a successful employee engagement strategy:
Digital channels and platforms have been a mainstay of work environments for quite some time. However, the reliance on them to communicate with team members in today’s remote environment is unprecedented.
Teams that have been thrust into remote working are likely to have invested in channels such as Skype and Slack, alongside their usual email channels. Many teams have also created WhatsApp groups where they can share quick and informal updates. However, people may be unsure as to how to go about using each channel effectively. Should they be replying to instant messages as quickly as possible? Is there a dedicated channel for escalating urgent issues? If there is not clarity, then employees may end up constantly monitoring various communication channels, which is likely to reduce their productivity.
It’s essential to develop practical communication policies for remote teams. This will outline protocols for different communication tools. For instance, one channel can be dedicated to urgent issues and another for less formal updates. The policy should also specify agreed response times for each communication channel, so expectations can be appropriately managed. These types of procedures will streamline communications, allowing teams to focus on their work whilst ensuring quick and easy access to relevant information.
Managers are likely sensitive to the challenges of remote working, especially where communication is concerned. However, they may feel as though they do not have control as leaders if they are not interacting with their employees as much as possible. This means leaders run the risk of overcompensating, watching Slack channels like a hawk and inundating their employees with a deluge of emails and instant messages.
While managers may be doing a lot of talking, this could be at the expense of listening. This means they could easily slip into micromanagement. Of course, you want your employees to know that your door is always open whilst also keeping tabs on their progress and engagement. But if you can’t let your team simply get on with their work this could indicate a lack of trust. This will undermine any attempts to communicate effectively with your team.
Not only do you need to allow your team to carry out their responsibilities, you should also empower them to take an active role in fostering healthy communication. Allocate time to discuss ways to improve overall communication. This could include initiatives such as ‘Zoom free Fridays’, or suggestions for new apps that enhance communication.
Through apps such as Totem, employees buy into the engagement and management process, becoming active participants in their organisational culture. One way this is achieved is by a democratic approach to internal communications. For instance, anyone can post an update they believe is important or relevant. This can then be promoted further by administrators as news stories or announcements. By removing a sense of ‘hierarchy’, Totem brings down barriers for better communication.
Totem offers teams a dedicated culture platform where they can share updates, socialise and recognise personal and professional achievements. We also provide managers with in-depth Culture Insights so they can better understand employee engagement in remote work environments. Want to find out more? Sign up for free to our Starter plan, or request a demo today.