Is your remote team struggling to communicate? Maybe you’re used to popping into someone’s office when you have a question and now feel disconnected. Or perhaps you’re overconnected. The sheer volume of emails and Zoom calls might seem overwhelming. Whatever communication challenges you’re facing, they are manageable with the right strategies.
You can improve communication while working remotely if you make thoughtful choices about when and how you share information. These strategies will help you communicate successfully even if your team is distributed around the world.
1. Schedule regular check-ins
When you work in the same office, chance encounters help everyone feel connected. You run into people in the hall or walk out to your car together. It’s easy to stay in touch. When your team is working remotely, you have to put some extra effort into managing relationships.
Schedule regular check-ins with every member of your team. Keep them short and meaningful. A fifteen-minute call once a week can create an opportunity for connection and may bring issues to light before they become problems.
Scheduled check-ins can also cut down on interruptions. If someone knows they’ll be speaking to you later that week, they may not feel the need to reach out dozens of times in between.
2. Share information directly
For better or worse, information often spreads quickly when people work side-by-side. You might be accustomed to this informal method of communication and assume that everyone knows what you know. Some research suggests that up to 70% of all workplace communication happens this way.
However, information flows differently when teams are spread out. Someone could get left out of the loop, or the message may be distorted as it passes from person to person. Relying on the rumor mill is dangerous.
Don’t assume someone has heard about a new client, issue, or achievement. Tell them directly. You can do this during your weekly check-in or through regular email updates.
3. Choose your medium
Before you reach out, consider how urgent your information, question, or request really is. Do you need an answer immediately? Choose a method of communication that respects everyone’s time. A call is more disruptive than an instant message, and a message is more disruptive than an email. Wherever possible, batch your communication so you’re not interrupting the person several times in one day. Modeling this behavior means that others are likely to respond in kind, so you get interrupted less often too.
If you message someone during off-hours, you’re increasing the chances that they’ll read your text and think ‘I’ll deal with that tomorrow.” Then, when tomorrow rolls around, they have twelve other messages and an overflowing inbox and they’ve forgotten all about your note. Limit instant messaging to business hours. If you do IM someone, be prepared to follow-up the next day.
4. Block time for focused work
This might not sound like a communication strategy, but it is. Especially if you’re feeling overconnected. When you set aside blocks of time to focus, you’re less distracted. That means you can get work done more efficiently. It also means that when you do attend a meeting or get on a call, you have the mental space to communicate rather than worry about the project you’ve left undone.
Let your team know about your focused hours, and ignore all communication during this time. If you’re consistent, people will quickly adapt to the schedule. They’ll know, for example, that calling you between 10 a.m. and noon means they’ll go directly to voicemail.
For help managing communication while working remotely, consider one of our virtual office image plans. You’ll get a business phone number, phone answering service, and mail sorting, so the communication can keep flowing even when you’re focused on your work. Contact Jackie today to learn about our virtual imaging packages.