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5 Tips For Better Remote Team Communication

Hunter McKinley
October 13, 2021

As a result of the pandemic, over half of employees are working remotely some or all of the time. This makes effective communication critical. Without it, teams can struggle to communicate and collaborate efficiently—which can negatively impact workflow, morale, and productivity. This means deadlines get missed, goals won’t be met, and you’ll be left with a remote team that feels lost and disconnected. So what can you do to make sure your remote team is communicating effectively? We’re going to provide concrete advice in this article, along with some of the common challenges you’ll face and how to overcome them.

Developing a remote team communication strategy

Communicating and building relationships are wildly different when done remotely. You can’t go for the odd coffee break or pull people into impromptu meetings (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing given that 31 hours are spent every month in unproductive meetings).

Instead, all communication is online. Whether it’s a video chat, a voice memo, or an email—it’s all virtual.

Sure, remote communication can present challenges, but it can be incredibly beneficial, too. You just have to know how to implement and manage your remote communication and collaboration tools in the right way.

Now you’re probably wondering, “Okay, but how do I do that?

The answer? Create a remote team communication strategy.

A communication strategy helps you standardize your processes and make them as clear as possible for your remote workers.

Think of it as the ultimate communication guide for your company. It’ll outline everything your employees need to know about how to communicate, why they’re communicating that way, and how to overcome hurdles.

Before we get to how you can create a remote team communication strategy, let’s take a look at some points of note.

Remote communication is time zone agnostic

Remote and hybrid companies have a wider talent pool when it comes to hiring employees because they’re not limited by location.

For some businesses, this can mean hiring employees from different countries and various time zones. In fact, 73% of businesses are currently operating in different time zones:

Is your company operating in multiple time zones? 73% Yes 27% No

Note that there are certain cultural differences when it comes to business communication with international teams. As a business leader or manager, this is something you need to take into account.

Think about small talk, for example. Small talk is a pretty important element of relationship building in some cultures, such as the US or the UK. In other cultures, this isn’t necessarily the case.

We’re not going to give you a full rundown of all the communication differences between various countries. There can be some complexities in understanding cultural subtleties when you incorporate teams from around the world, but they are well worth exploring as diversity of thought and experiences is key for innovation.

The biggest piece of advice we can give you is to avoid ethnocentrism. Avoid making assumptions about how your employees will react or behave based on your preconceived cultural notions of said behavior.

Instead, take the time to get to know each of your team members and take their differences into account when building your remote communication strategy, methodologies, and norms. What works for one person might now work for another, but certain aspects of your communication do need to be standardized.

What about remote-first and hybrid teams?

Seeing as we’ve mentioned them a couple of times already, let’s clarify the differences between remote-first and hybrid working models.

Remote-first Hybrid
  • Assumes that employees are working outside of the office at all times.
  • There’s usually no core office space because it’s not necessary.
  • Remote-first businesses have to use a digital infrastructure that can support an entirely remote team.
  • A combination of in-office work and remote work.
  • How often employees come into the office vs. work remotely is up to you.
  • Hybrid businesses have to use a digital infrastructure that can support a distributed team that is not always in one place at the same time, but can revert to in-person methodologies in segments.

Depending on which of these models a business uses, the best methods of communication will change. For example, hybrid teams will only be communicating remotely some of the time, so they might not require some of the communication tools a fully remote team does.

Think about this when creating your remote communication strategy to make sure your teams have the best remote communication setup for their work environment.

Speaking of your remote communication strategy, let’s dive into a five-step process for how to set one up.

1. Document your communication processes

Research shows that employees collaborate and communicate differently when working remotely.

What has changed the most about your work now that you work remotely? 41% says How I collaborate and communicate

We know, this isn’t really a shock. Of course remote employees will communicate differently to in-person employees, right?

Right. And because of these differences, it’s really important that you clearly outline how remote employees should communicate.

You need to devise a comprehensive team communication plan. A “how we communicate” document, for example.

This document will be the foundation of your remote team communication strategy. It'll outline the core practices and principles so it’s crystal clear how everyone should communicate.

So what should you include in your communication document?

Every business is different, so the document will look different for everyone. But here are a couple of suggestions to get you started:

  • How employees should communicate: Outline the appropriate methods of communication for different situations. For example, you might encourage instant messaging for quick responses like “OK”, but suggest async voice messaging (voice messaging that doesn’t require an immediate response) for more detailed information. Of course, this depends on the platforms you’re using which we’ll get onto later.
  • Address social interactions: 40% of employers are concerned that working from home will negatively impact employees’ mental health and well-being. To prevent this from happening, your communication plan should allow colleagues to build relationships during work hours. As a result, your employees should feel less isolated working remotely.

How visual communication can help cross language barriers

Let’s be honest. Remote communication can get tedious if all you’re doing is sending emails and direct messages. And research shows that people digest information better when it’s visual (to be specific, we digest images 60,000 times faster than text).

Furthermore, 67% of study participants performing real-world office tasks completed them better when the instructions were delivered as images or video. They absorbed the information 7% quicker on average and it was retained for longer periods.

So even though it might feel quicker to send a long, text-based email with your thoughts, your employees may digest that information better in other ways. (Spoiler alert: We’ll also show you later that it’s actually not quicker to type out that email.)

The Value of Visuals: 58% believe they remember information longer when it’s visual 67% complete tasks better when instructons are provided as marked up screenshots or videos vs just text alone

And if your team is globally diverse, visual communication can help you overcome language barriers, too. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

With all this in mind, visual communication needs to be part of your remote team comms strategy.

Here’s what you can do to incorporate it into your strategy:

  • Create visual aids: Not everything has to be written in a long, text-heavy document. Consider creating visually appealing how-to guides or documents that outline your business processes. This could even include your “how we communicate” document.
  • Encourage the use of pre-recorded video: If you have information that you need to share with your team, consider sharing a pre-recorded video (you can do this with Yac). This form of asynchronous communication allows teams to share information in a visually engaging way without taking up unnecessary time in meetings.

2. Cater to how employees communicate best

Communicating and working remotely can be difficult for some employees. And not having face-to-face communication can make it harder for you to pick up on emotional cues and important signals, like if your team is struggling in any way.

So when you’re creating your remote team communication strategy, think about how you can support employees who feel this way.

Our suggestion? Consider using a remote communication tool that features voice and video, like Yac.

With our software, users can send voice messages and screen sharing videos. Unlike synchronous video call platforms, such as Zoom, our messages can be sent asynchronously. This means you can record your video or voice message and send it to the recipients whenever it suits you—and they can reply on their own time, too.

Sending a voice message to Voice Memos using Yac.

Having the option to send voice and video messages is helpful when you’re trying to gauge how your employees are feeling. It shows body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice, all of which help you figure out how they’re feeling.

3. Create guidelines for clear communication

Remote communication can sometimes be unclear, leaving the meaning open to interpretation. This isn’t ideal for productivity, especially if the recipient has to go back and ask for clarification.

For example, let’s say you receive a DM in Slack from your manager. It says:

“Please send me a rundown of your clients.”

Immediately, you’re faced with a bunch of questions.

“When do you need it? Should I include all my clients or just the high-value clients? Did I miss a due date I wasn’t aware of, or is this an ad hoc request?”

To get this information, you have to go back to your manager and ask for more detail. It’s simply not efficient.

To prevent this from happening, and to avoid miscommunication, make sure you include guidelines for clear communication as part of your strategy. This will help employees understand what information they should share and how much detail is needed. In our opinion, the more information, the better.

You also might want to think about how async communication can help with this. Using an async platform (like Yac) helps teams communicate as clearly as possible with voice and video, allowing you to add as much context as possible in a short time frame. This makes it easier for the recipient to get the full picture without having to ask for more information.

4. Evaluating tools that serve your strategy

If you’re not using tools that are right for your business, team communication can suffer. And if your teams aren’t communicating efficiently, productivity can take a hit.

So how can you make sure you find platforms that align with your remote comms strategy?

Put simply, you need to know what features you want before you start looking. This will ensure you choose a platform that serves your goals and helps you avoid those that don’t fit the bill.

If you’re not sure what features to look out for, here are a few we’d suggest:

  • Easy to use interface: The last thing you want is to pick a platform that no one knows how to use properly. Using a platform that has a simple interface will allow your team to focus on communicating efficiently, and not wasting tons of time learning a difficult new tool. If for whatever reason the tool that’s best suited for your company is difficult to learn, create extensive documentation on how to use it, share asynchronous videos explaining how to communicate in it, and be available to field questions that arise.
  • Asynchronous capabilities: With async communication, you reduce the need for immediate replies and unnecessary team meetings, both of which disrupt deep work. Take a look at Yac, for example. Since using our async platform, 91% of businesses had fewer meetings, resulting in 35+ minutes saved per person every day. Think about that over the course of a month—it adds up. And don’t just take our word for it. Check out this tweet from one of our customers:
  • Voice communication: Voice communication is fast. In fact, you can share information 7x faster with voice. It also allows you to quickly provide context to your communication, making it a pretty efficient way to share information with your team. So think about how voice functionality could improve your remote communication efforts. If you want more information, take a look at Yac’s voice messaging feature.

Although we’ve listed a few features here, every business is different. So make sure you review what features your business needs before pulling the trigger.

5. Make teams excited by promoting the benefits

You might have gathered by now that we think async communication is the way forward for remote teams. It allows everyone to communicate at their own pace, provide a substantial amount of context to their communication, and collaborate without having to be online at the same time.

And it’s not just us that thinks it’s worthwhile. 69% of businesses are already promoting async communication.

Does your company encourage asynchronous communication? 69% Yes 31% No

If you decide to use async communication, you need everyone on board to make it work. And what’s the best way to get everyone on board? Focus on the benefits. That’ll show your team how async communication benefits them directly.

So let’s take a look at what the benefits are and the advantages that employees will experience from using it.

Flexible working

With async comms, teams can work flexibly and respond to voice and video messages when it suits them. There’s no need to be available at a certain date and time, giving employees the flexibility to manage their schedule and respond at a time that suits them.

And with 43% of remote workers saying that flexibility is key to their productivity, it’s a win-win for everyone.

Well-rounded responses

If you’re put on the spot, you often say the first thing that comes to mind. How many times have you immediately regretted something you said in a meeting? Or thought to yourself 10 minutes later, “Shoot, I should have said that instead.” 

We’ve all been there. But with async communication, this won’t be a problem.

Async communication allows for more efficient and thoughtful responses. There’s no pressure to reply in real-time, giving everyone the time they need to review their messages and respond accordingly.

And with the addition of voice and video sharing, employees can really back up their points and make them as clear as possible for the recipient.

Provides context

With an async communication platform like Yac, you can quickly share information that includes context and nuance.

This means that voice and video reduce the time spent gauging the emotional intent behind a message or email. It conveys tone, provides additional context, and doesn’t leave recipients guessing.

Make introverted team members feel comfortable

Up to 40% of the population falls on the introverted side of the spectrum. So chances are a hefty chunk of your workforce are introverts.

Async communication is ideal for introverts. It gives them time to reflect before making decisions and sending a response, which takes the pressure off. As a result, they feel more comfortable and confident in their communication knowing it’s well thought through.

Facing challenges with remote team communication? Here’s how to fix it

Businesses still face challenges when it comes to remote communication. Here, we’ll outline some of the most common challenges and how to overcome them.

Lack of social interaction

It’s not surprising that some remote teams find it hard to interact socially. Communicating online simply isn’t the same as working in an office together.

But there are ways you can encourage non-work communication for your remote employees.Virtual team-building events during the workday, for example, are a great way to encourage socializing.

You could implement “online lunch dates”, allowing employees to expense a lunch takeout of their choice and communicate socially in a virtual room. It can be as simple as a coordinated event in a “break room” channel in your messaging platform. The point is that it gives employees a chance to bond separately from work-related activities. But, attendance shouldn’t be mandatory.

Productivity is taking a hit

If your productivity is suffering because of inefficient communication, here’s what you can do:

  • Use “bursty” communication: If you’re not familiar with the phrase, “bursty” communication involves rapid periods of teamwork. Teams pick a specific date and time where the entire team is online. Everyone can get in sync, communicate ideas, and respond quickly. It’s not for everyone (as we’ve already mentioned, introverted employees might not thrive in this environment), but it could be a solution to improve productivity.
  • Adopt async communication: Async communication allows teams to communicate efficiently and be more productive with their time. Team members can share information when it suits them, and there’s no need for an immediate response. Simply put, it replaces the need for in-person and video meetings while making sure that communication and productivity run smoothly.

Overcommunication

Communication is vital, but being overloaded with constant messages and communication from your team can feel pretty overwhelming.

To prevent this, you need to be clear about your communication norms. This is something you should outline in your “how we communicate” document, but people might also need reminding from time to time.

To keep everyone up to speed, we’d suggest sharing your “how we communicate” document on a semi-regular basis. Sending it every month might be a bit much. But every 6 months or so, whenever it’s updated, or whenever it’s just relevant to share, send it to your team to remind them of your communication practices.

Start planning your remote team communication strategy today

By now, you should have everything you need to create a solid remote team communication plan. You know what to include in your strategy, why it’s important to have one, and how to overcome some of the common communication challenges you might face with a remote team.

If you’re thinking about using async communication as part of your strategy, take a look at Yac. You can sign up for free to test the waters and see if we’re a good fit. Or, you can book a demo to have a tour of our platform and ask any questions.