How remote communication makes team collaboration more productive
Before we dive into productivity, let’s clarify what remote communication is.
Remote communication is a way to collaborate with colleagues outside of face-to-face communication by using digital tools.
Remote communication includes sending a voice message, an email, or having a phone call.
So, how does remote communication make collaboration more productive?
There are a couple of answers to this question.
1. You develop accurate and effective communication skills
Most teams working remotely will use asynchronous communication (also known as “async” communication). Async communication is the process of exchanging information without needing an immediate response. Like sending an email or a voice note, for example.
Async communication allows people to reflect on their thoughts before they respond. As a result, they’re more precise with the information they share.
For example, if someone asks you a question on the phone or a Zoom call, you’re forced to answer instantly. You don’t have time to develop a comprehensive and accurate response. But with async communication, you can process your thoughts before you reply and give the recipient the full picture.
This helps teams be more productive when collaborating with colleagues. They spend more time communicating effectively and less time worrying about how to respond to colleagues on the spot.
2. You reduce the need for in-person meetings
In an effort to collaborate more and create a flatter internal structure, meetings have become more popular. While the intentions are in the right place, the influx of too many meetings has led to many glaring problems.
The biggest one? Not all meetings are productive, so they end up wasting tons of valuable time.
But remote communication reduces the need for in-person and video meetings.
Instead of meeting in person or hopping on a Zoom, colleagues can communicate via email, voice messages (with platforms like Yac), and project management platforms. This means they’re spending less time in unproductive meetings and more time collaborating efficiently.
The difference between remote-first and remote-friendly
As we bridge the gap between remote working and returning to the office, the terms “remote-first” and “remote-friendly” are growing in popularity.
As a result, we expect to see a lot of businesses shift from fully remote working to a hybrid style of working (meaning a mix of in-person and remote work).
So, what’s the difference between remote-first and remote-friendly, and which should you be using?
Let’s break it down:
They may sound pretty similar. The key difference is remote-first teams work under the assumption that their employees work remotely 100% of the time. In fact, they might not even have an office.
But the remote-friendly teams assume that workers will be remote some of the time.
Should you use the remote-first or remote-friendly model?
The best choice of remote working model depends on the business you’re running, the size of your company, and how you want to communicate with your team.
But from what we can see in recent studies, it seems that remote-friendly at a minimum is a fast-growing sentiment:
- Only 9% of remote workers say they want to work in an office all the time
- 1 in 2 people won’t return to jobs that don’t offer remote work
- The majority of employers (86%) will wait for employees to decide if and when they want to return to the office
- 64% of executives surveyed say they plan to invest in virtual team leadership training
With these figures in mind, we expect remote-first businesses to remain popular.
You can have a remote-friendly business that supports team members who want to work remotely. But remote-first is built around virtual communications and workflows.
Remote-first gives you the digital infrastructure you need to support an entirely remote team. You’ll focus on helping your team with effective communication, and help them work as productively as possible, no matter where they’re located.
If you want to go all-in for remote-first, you’ll need to build a culture around effective communication.
Applying different types of remote work communication
Here are some of the most common types of remote communication (both asynchronous and synchronous) and how you can utilize them in the workplace:
Arguably the most popular method of async communication. We won’t go into too much detail, as you’ve likely used email before. But put simply, email can be great for sending detailed communication to multiple people. Because it’s asynchronous, people can fully digest the information and respond when they like.
That said, checking and replying to email takes a ton of time out of your day. This not only cuts into productivity, but creates an expectation of an answer (which, in our opinion, should not be the norm). This propagates the check, respond, check again endless cycle that disrupts deep work and leads to unnecessary anxiety.
To effectively use email in a remote work culture, make sure to limit email to only necessary communication. For example, sending a contract to a stakeholder.
If you do need to use email for multiple purposes, teach your employees to block off time frames to check and respond to email. This may look like one hour in the morning and thirty minutes in the afternoon. As a leader, explain that you do not want anybody to expect an answer right away, and live by that mantra yourself.
This way, you can use email efficiently and relieve the pressure to break focus and send near instant replies.
Instant messaging is less formal than email, so it’s often used for quick and fast communication. Online messaging tools such as Slack are perfect if you want to communicate with text in a less formal fashion than email.
That said, just like with email, there’s a culture of needing to reply in real-time with instant or direct message tools. Unlike a video or phone call, there’s less pressure to reply synchronously, which is a good thing. But, ignoring that notification isn’t always easy.
To combat this, lay the same groundwork for instant messaging tools as you do for email (or any other remote tool for that matter). Build a culture where real-time responses are never expected unless they’re needed for handling an emergency or if you’re up against a deadline and need an answer ASAP.
Of course, the biggest downfall of text-based communication tools, even if you do set appropriate expectations, is that you miss the body language and communication nuances that voice and video provide.
This brings us to our preferred (and naturally biased) method of remote communication.
Voice messaging is an incredibly efficient way of communicating remotely. You can share information up to 3x faster with voice and provide more context to your communication. Voice messaging also retains the human element that email and instant messaging seem to lack. For this reason, it’s ideal for sharing detailed information in a quick and efficient way.
If you’re not familiar with voice messaging, take a look at Yac. With our platform, you can send detailed voice messages to your team quickly and easily. You can also share images, videos, and pre-recorded screen shares to add context to your message.
Long-winded text-based messages can lead to miscommunication because you can’t hear nuances in tone. The same long message with voice can be delivered quickly, while significantly decreasing the chance of miscommunication, boosting efficiency and productivity.
Of course, voice tools like Yac are new, so integrating them into your remote culture comes with a learning curve. This is where you (the leader) can really shine. You’re in a position to change how your team communicates remotely, so you must take the time to logistically figure out how you’ll practically add voice (and all remote tools) into your everyday communication.
We’ll dive into how to do this in the next section, so keep reading. But if we’ve peaked your asynchronous communication curiosity, you can learn about how to foster a culture that puts async communication first in our complete guide to asynchronous communication.
Zoom is now holding over 3.3 trillion (yes—with a t!) meetings per year. That’s not including other popular video conferencing tools, such as Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams. So, it’s safe to say that video calls are a popular method of remote communication.
Video calls are a great way to get the feel of face-to-face communication and pick up on the nuances of body language without being in the same room. But they’re not always the most productive way of communicating.
Why? Because video calls are completely synchronous. As we alluded above, real-time back and forth doesn’t create the most comfortable or inclusive environment. Not everybody performs well on the spot, and it also leaves little room for delivering a fully formulated thought. And if a thought it’s complete, miscommunication, and thus wasted time and energy, often follows.
Do we need more video calls and emails?
Despite the pandemic-led boom of video meetings, not every meeting needs to or should be conducted over video.
As we’ve already mentioned, in-person meetings can waste a lot of company time. The same goes for virtual team meetings. In fact, employees are divided on whether their meeting productivity is better or worse when working from home.
There are other methods of remote communication that are more efficient.
Voice messaging, as mentioned above, allows you to share information with your team quicker and more efficiently (e.g. less miscommunication) than sending an email, instant message, organizing a meeting, or leaving a note in a project management tool.
Although you might be drawn to the most popular remote communication methods, that doesn’t mean they’re right for your business. Find the platforms that offer you the most efficient remote communication solution.
And where you can, try to integrate these channels into your workflow.
For instance, if you’re using a project management platform, think about how you can integrate your communication channels. This allows for everyone on your team to have one central location to communicate from, and all communications will be hosted in one place.
Integrating tools streamlines remote communication by avoiding tab and context switching.
Adopting a culture of remote communication
By now, you should have a pretty good understanding of remote communication. Putting it into practice takes strategy and planning.
Let’s take a look at some practical ways you can foster a company culture of remote communication.
Find your remote comms champions
So many teams went remote in 2020, but they weren’t all afforded the time to develop a communication strategy. Now is the perfect time to reevaluate and make remote communication better.
If you’re integrating new tech or communications policies, it helps to have some advocates on your side.
This will help roll out your remote communication processes without having the burden fall entirely on your shoulders.
Not to mention, it’s a great way to provide support while encouraging teams to work together.
For example, imagine you have a marketing project executive pioneering the use of remote communication for the entire marketing team. They’ll answer questions from team members, encourage best practices, and help keep things running smoothly at every stage.
With advocates in place, you’ll also have one point of contact for any feedback or issues. This means you won’t have to worry about receiving the same feedback from various employees, which saves you time in the long run.
Speak with your entire team and get their opinions on the way things are currently done
To figure out what areas of remote communication you want to use, speak to your team.
Pick their brains to find out what they think about your current methods of communication. Ask them what works well, what doesn’t work well, and what they’d suggest for things to run smoother.
After all, they’re the ones that’ll be using this method of communication on a daily basis.
Take their feedback on board to give yourself a solid starting point to figure out what tools you need to use.
Select the right tools based on their feedback
Communication tools that work for some might not work for others, so it’s up to you to find what works best for your business.
Using the feedback you’ve received from your team, you can start to narrow down your options.
Are they looking for a way to instantly communicate with written messages? Consider an instant messaging platform like Slack.
Or are they looking for something that allows them to communicate asynchronously with messages, voice, file sharing, and screen sharing? Take a look at Yac.
Of course, we’d argue that you should implement both in this case. Why? Because voice allows for a level of connectivity that text-based communication simply does not. People that work remotely naturally do not see their colleagues in person, either at all or as often, as people that work in an office. This can lead to loneliness, especially given that async communication calls for less real-time interactions, not more.
But voice can help bridge that gap and make people feel closer to one another while simultaneously allowing for deep work and increased productivity. It will never replace the ever-important human, face-to-face connection that we all crave, but it certainly helps.
This is why Yac has teamed up with Slack to offer teams the best-fit option, voice or text, while keeping their communications in one place. With the Slack integration, you can choose to send a voice message (or voice plus video) when text notes are too complex. You can also get notifications in Slack when you receive a Yac, so you never miss a thing.
Whatever your team is looking for, make sure the platform you choose meets their needs while also serving your culture goals. Otherwise, you risk jeopardizing your ability to communicate effectively and, if everybody isn’t on board, you won’t reap the benefits of async communication that we’ve outlined thus far.
Create clear processes and expectations
When you’ve settled on the right platform, it’s time to lay it out for your team.
Create processes for your team on how to use the communication tool you’ve chosen. Make sure your expectations are clear, so they know what to use it for, when to use it, and how to use it.
Screenshot showing what screen sharing looks like with Yac's desktop app.
8 remote communication tools
When it comes to remote communication tools, what are your options? In this digital age, there are a lot to choose from.
We’ve listed some of the most popular communication tools in the categories of voice meeting, async, project management, and documentation tools.
Voice meeting tools
RingCentral is a synchronous communication platform. It helps teams run conference calls in real time.
Although the platform is used mostly for voice meetings and phone calls, it also has a team messaging function and has video conference hosting capabilities.
Yac is a unique platform in the voice meeting space in that we’ve developed our tool with async communications in mind.
Users simply record their voice notes, send them to the team, and wait for a response. There’s no need for everyone to be available at the same time, giving your team more flexibility while keeping the personal feel.
You can also share other media, like screenshots and video recordings, with a voice explanation. All voice notes are automatically transcribed, so you can quickly scan through past messages or use the search function.
Asynchronous communication tools for remote work
Yac is an incredibly useful async tool, so we had to feature it here too.
If you have a distributed team working across different time zones, or if everyone’s schedule is jam-packed, Yac can help you stay on the same page.
Our collaborative platform allows teams to communicate when it suits them. Using our async voice and video messages, you can share ideas and thoughts with your team at any time in asynchronous meetings.
Threads is a place to keep your asynchronous conversations. It’s best described as a dashboard for discussions, like a powerful forum.
Threads helps you organize and close out conversations about to do list items without the need to schedule meetings and take away valuable time from employees. You can sort discussions into topics, sort of like Yac channels, to keep everything in one place.
For example, you can send a message containing information about an update that everyone in a team needs to know about, while requesting responses only from specific people. This way you can get action on items and move projects forward without distracting people who just need to be informed with a check-in meeting.
This is also achievable in Yac with our tagging feature. When you send a voice message, Yac automatically detects when you’ve spoken a name and adds an @ symbol in the transcript. You can then easily edit the transcript to complete the tag and notify the people who need to action an item.
Project management tools
Linear is built for software teams and calls itself an “issue tracking tool”, which we would argue is a good description. Linear organizes tasks into categories like “in review”, “in progress”, and “done” to help you keep track. Where they excel is in their ability to assign tasks, create visual cycles and track team workload in real time and at speed.
They also have Gantt-like functionality with their Roadmap feature, so you can see an overview of all projects across the company and how they tie to your goals.
ClickUp helps teams manage their workflow.
The platform also integrates with a variety of third-party tools, making it a pretty good choice if you’re already using some external platforms to manage your projects and you’re not ready to give them up.
1. Google Drive
You’re probably already familiar with Google Drive's tools, including the likes of Google Docs, so we won’t go into too much detail.
Google Drive is essentially a file sharing, synchronization, and document storage platform.
It helps businesses track, manage, and store their business documentation, including documents, spreadsheets, slides, PDFs, and more.
Almanac is a document productivity tool designed for asynchronous, remote working. It’s a platform that’s optimized for keeping teams on the same page while creating and getting consensus on documents.
Where it departs from Google Docs is that it’s built to work fast, with keyboard shortcuts and a quick-access tools bar, and it has a unique document architecture capability.
You can link temporary versions of drafts, revisions and ideas that you want to keep close together in “branches”, rather than tracking back through an unclear version history or storing multiple copies in a folder. Make changes in a linked version and merge it back to the original doc, or send a request to the owner, and see an intuitive activity feed that shows how the document came to be.
Pros, cons, and challenges of remote team communication
Effective remote communication can improve the productivity of remote employees, but that doesn’t mean it comes without challenges.
So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of remote communication and how you can overcome the challenges you might face.
Remote communication myths (and why they’re B.S.)
There are a lot of misconceptions about remote communication and remote working in general.
Fortunately, we’re about to bust some myths and put things into perspective.
Myth #1: Remote team communication isn’t as efficient
We’ll give credit where it's due.
Remote communication, particularly async communication, isn’t as fast as in-person communication.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not as efficient. In fact, we’d argue it’s more efficient.
As we’ve mentioned before, in-person communication doesn’t always result in productivity. People responding to questions under pressure don’t have the time to create a fully formulated response, meaning their answers might not always be comprehensive.
But with async communication, people have time to think. There’s less back and forth and more direct communication. From where we’re standing, that makes it pretty efficient.
Not to mention, removing the pressure to respond immediately allows for more creative work. Your team has the ability to be fully present and focused on the task at hand, rather than getting constantly interrupted by in-person conversations (or even synchronous, remote messages).
Myth #2: Remote teams don’t communicate as often
Remote teams might not communicate as often as in-person teams, but that’s a good thing.
We already know that in-person meetings aren’t always productive. And how often have you been in the office when someone asks you a question that they could probably have answered themself?
Research shows that the average person gets interrupted once every 8 minutes, and 80% of those interruptions are unimportant.
So, perhaps remote teams don’t communicate as often as in-person teams. But that’s because they communicate more efficiently and only when it’s necessary.
So, what are the pros and cons of remote communication?
Time to look at the pros and cons of remote communication. We’ve selected a few of the most popular:
How do we overcome these remote communication challenges?
There are ways to overcome these challenges, and thankfully it’s not too difficult.
Let’s take a look.
Communicating quickly and asynchronously
It’s a common worry among businesses that async communication isn’t fast.
And they’re right, in part. It’s not meant to be fast (as in real-time) communication—it’s meant to be flexible.
But it is faster to send and listen to voice messages than text-based messages, so while email may be slower than a real-time conversation, voice messages can be just as fast (and more efficient).
Fortunately, there are remote communication tools out there that allow you to communicate in real-time. The trick is knowing when to use async and when not to.
Using remote collaboration tools
If you’re having trouble with a remote collaboration tool, our advice is simple: find a new one.
The worst thing you can do is get too comfortable and stick with a platform that’s impacting your productivity.
There are so many tools to choose from. Spend some time finding something that’s better suited to what you need.
To make the process easier, we’d suggest outlining the must-have features before you start your search. That way, you can weed out the platforms that won’t work for your business.
Less time spent in meetings
Synchronous meetings aren’t always the most productive way to communicate with your team. But some are important, such as team building meetings.
Instead of tracking meeting time, track more useful metrics that monitor productivity and happiness (like conversions or employee satisfaction). If these hold steady—or improve—as you reduce synchronous meetings, you may have found a good compromise.
By now, you should have a pretty solid understanding of how to communicate effectively as a remote-first or remote-friendly company.
We’ve covered the pros and cons, the challenges, and how to adopt remote communication in your business. And now it’s time to put what you’ve learned into action.
If you’re thinking about trying a remote communication platform, why not give Yac a go? Our platform is built for teams that want to streamline their remote communication and keep their workflows productive.