Remote teams are increasingly popular. Thanks to the internet, many businesses are hiring people who have never been anywhere near their official offices. This largely changes the way we need to communicate at work. You aren’t going to pass this person in the hallway, or run into them in the breakroom. Communication needs to be just as strong as it is within your office, but building that strength is a unique challenge.
You reduce the chance of miscommunication or forgetting to touch on important points when you can live chat with your team. Skype and even Facebook allow you to make video calls with your remote team members. Whether you’re speaking to all of them at once or having a few one-on-one discussions, you’ll be as close as you can get to mimicking the flow of an in-person conversation. If everyone lives in different time zones, it may be difficult to coordinate, but the end result is always worth it.
Share Progress in Real Time
Thanks to tools like Drop Box and Google Docs, remote team members can all work together simultaneously. Your team members in house can also collaborate with them in real time. It’s as close as you can get to sitting around a table and going over documents with each other. Since progress updates live, you’ll be able to notice mistakes as soon as they arise. This keeps everyone from wasting time and reduces the likelihood of lengthy revision processes. You can provide instantaneous feedback.
Encourage Informal Communication
Communication is more than just an important part of working – it’s also an important part of team building, and you’ll have to make sure your remote team understand each other. There’s nothing wrong with the light use of things like emojis and gifs. They can help fill in the blanks were the nuances of face to face conversation would have otherwise been. It gives a sense of personality, which helps everyone lighten up. It’s difficult to work with people you don’t understand or get along with, and these friendly conversations make work a little more comfortable.
Ask a Lot of Questions
Statement based communication doesn’t go very far. By asking a lot of questions (and encouraging your team members to ask you a lot of questions), you can be sure that nothing is lost in the subtext of what’s being said. Since questions push communication further, you may even find it easier to innovate or inspire creativity through the use of questions. Open ended questions encourage people to explore perspectives and search their brain, and your business may be better because of that.
Get Involved in Their Day to Day
Many remote team members are using their own schedules. They might live in different parts of the world, and they could be waking up around the time you’d usually be calling it a night. If you get involved in their day to day, it’s easier to strategize deadlines and goals. If you know you’re working with a six hour time difference and your team member has several commitments during the week that cause them to divide their workday, it’s easier to plan. You don’t have to pry into details about their personal lives, but getting a sense of what they’re juggling and how their personal schedule works will help you assign work, contact them at the right times, and make better judgments when it comes to setting completion dates.
You can’t expect communication to work perfectly at first – you might have to make some major adjustments in order to accommodate your remote team, and that alone might take a significant amount of time. Use trial and error until you find a system that works for everyone, even if it’s a little unorthodox.