Reliable communication between yourself and your team is a crucial key to success when it comes to maintaining a business that thrives. When you manage a remote team, communication becomes even more critical and can be tricky to improve.
There’s no water cooler to meet up at so you can casually ask how the latest project is going, your desk is not just a few steps away so employees can come to you with questions, and you probably can’t just call a meeting on a Wednesday afternoon when all you have for leverage is an email address.
You already know this, so how will you interact and engage with employees who reside in different time zones and establish a steady workflow based on stable communication?
We’ll tell you what happens if you don’t get a handle on communication. Problems will arise like poor employee retention, lack of direction and understanding among workers, low-quality services, and products, along with an overall loss of profit.
If you know communication at your organization could use some improvement, we’ve got some valuable solutions for you to start implementing ASAP.
Set Expectations Early On
When you hire remote workers, the best way to increase the potential of open and effective communication is to set your expectations upfront.
Be clear about what you’re looking for in an employee and what your company culture is like. How accessible to you need them to be throughout the work day and will they have set work hours? Would you prefer an end-of-day or end-of-week virtual check-in? How much guidance are you willing to provide upfront and on an ongoing basis?
These are all critical questions to ask to set the tone for your working relationship. Make sure you’re communicating well and precisely on your end too so the employee can follow your lead.
You don’t want to tell a remote employee that they can complete tasks whenever as long as it’s before the deadline if you prefer to have the work turned in by 3 pm on deadlines days.
Be specific when assigning tasks and provide detailed guidelines, so there’s no room or tolerance for guesswork. Address mistakes or any issues early on to prevent the problem from continuing in the future.
Communicating legitimate and clear expectations early on is the way to go if you want to have harmony in your virtual workplace.
Consider the Right Tools
One of the best things about working with a remote team is all the cutting edge tools and apps you can start using to enhance your bottom line. Since you won’t be seeing each other face-to-face each day, it’s essential to make up for that missing personal connection by choosing the right tools for your business.
If project management is your concern, consider using Asana which is a free program that allows you to create projects and tasks that you can assign to remote team members. Once you set a due date, Asana automatically reminds the team member when they need to complete the tasks and sends email alerts if they exceed their deadline.
You can also send messages and send attachments below each task created in Asana so you can provide updates or answer questions quickly when needed.
If you need to set up a conference call with employees, consider using tools like Skype, Google Hangouts, UberConference or Zoom. Or if you prefer to chat throughout the day or address urgent needs and concerns, you can ask everyone to sign up for Slack (which is an instant messenger) and be online for a specific set of hours each day.
Action Step: Do some research based on your communication goals to determine which tools would be best for smoothing out communication with remote workers.
Organize Regular Meetings
Meetings are probably the most basic and standard workplace activity, and it’s understandable why. They act as the common ground to bring everyone together and discuss relevant topics as a team.
When you manage a remote team, you can still host regular team meetings and you’ll probably want to, as it can be the best way to keep lines of communication open.
Choose a platform whether it’s Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts and set a clear purpose to make sure your meeting is productive and a good use of everyone’s time.
For example, busy full-time remote employees may not have time for a 60-minute meeting each week, and you may want to consider doing a brief 15-30-minute weekly check-in call.
On the other hand, if lots of teamwork is required for projects or if you’re preparing for a massive launch, a more protracted, more in-depth meeting may be necessary.
Find a Rhythm That Works For You
No two businesses will have the same workplace communication system especially when remote workers are involved.
It’s crucial that you find a rhythm that works for you and makes your employees feel comfortable and confident that they understand their tasks and their voices and needs are heard.
Beware of over communication as it can be counterproductive to ‘hover’ over team members when time and energy can be better spent on other activities.
If your business is open to change and flexibility, feel free to ask remote team members what their needs and desires are for communication and balance that with the systems and processes already in place.