Remote work is more popular now than ever - and that is not going to change.
Distributed teams and working remotely are not just trends a few flexible employers have adopted as an option for their employees. Researchers have found that more than two-thirds of people globally work away from the office at least once per week, according to CNBC.
Working remotely offers employees and entire teams unmatched flexibility in both working hours, styles and locations. Thanks to always improving communication tools and services, remote employees are often just as connected as any of their peers who work on site.
However, there can still be communication hurdles to overcome in order to keep remote and distributed teams working together like well-oiled machines. It is critical for employers and team managers to know how to communicate best with the entire team and how to foster collaborative environments where information flows easily.
With that in mind, let’s dive further into remote work, why it has become so popular and how remote teams can communicate better.
Remote work, also known as telecommuting has seen a surge in popularity in recent years thanks to several factors. Not only do more workers telecommute at least once per week, but also, in 2016, 31% of American workers worked remotely 80-100% of the time.
One of the primary reasons for remote work’s popularity is that nearly every industry has shifted toward digital. Anything that can be done digitally is less tied to a physical location, creating more opportunities for employees to do their jobs from different locations.
Another benefit is that, for some workers, remote work can lead to better productivity. Again, better communication tools can take some of the credit here, as can other digital services, such as cloud computing.
In a perfect world, every member of a remote team would prefer to send and receive communications in the same way. But that is not the case. Some people will always prefer email, while others would like to speak more often over the phone. It’s key to know each team member’s preference.
Good communicators must also know what determines the best way to communicate. Before sending an email or picking up a phone, ask how much time the interaction will take and if it’s worth that amount of time.
Also, consider the complexity of any questions or directions that need to be given. If all that is needed is the answer to a question - or simple instructions - then an instant message or email may be best. However, if there are multiple questions that need to be answered or you want the communication to have a more personal touch, then getting on the phone could be more useful.
It could be argued that the communication tools used by remote teams are the most important factor in determining how successful the team can be. When there is physical distance separating coworkers, the ability to communicate well is vital.
This means teams will need to rely on a variety of apps, software and other services, such as conferencing services, messaging apps, shared calendars, cloud-based storage and many more.
When it comes to picking the right tools, each team’s unique needs and communication preferences must be taken into consideration. While there will likely be several go-to tools used by any given team, a reliable conference call service should be considered.
There are many free conference call services available, but make sure you don’t settle for a service that skimps on features remote teams need to succeed.
It should also be noted that all remote teams need some sort of messaging app or tool, as well. Messaging services are often the most efficient way to send short updates, instructions or get quick questions answered.
While remote teams need to speak to each other and even meet in person from time to time, instant messaging and other written communications should be the default. However, there are some tips to take advantage of and pitfalls to avoid with messaging, email and other written communications.
For example, keep in mind that while written messages must be kept brief, they also need to be clear and concise in what they are attempting to communicate. Fewer words are sometimes appreciated, but if the message from the sender is lost or hard to determine, then it’s up to the people on the receiving end of the message to either ask for clarification or try to infer the meaning. Either way, miscommunication issues can arise.
To avoid miscommunication, don’t assume that people reading a message will understand shorthand or other cues. Make sure the intention of a message and the expectations of the sender are always clear.
Building a successful team, remote or otherwise, requires everyone to feel like they are indeed part of a team. A good communication strategy takes this into account. Be sure to take time to celebrate team accomplishments with each other, whether that’s in an announcement email, instant message thread or in a weekly conference call.
Think about this as though you are setting up a virtual water cooler. Give people time to socialize with each other and speak about things that aren’t directly related to business.
Celebrating as a team is also important. If this can happen in person, then that is great. If not, be sure to allow time to celebrate with each other, such as on a conference call, for everything from big sales to birthdays.
Are you ready to help your team communicate more effectively? Start by introducing them to a better conference call experience. With ConferenceTown.com, your entire team can enjoy the best features of any conference call service - for free.
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