As the world plunged into disarray when the COVID-19 pandemic started, the disruption it caused sent ripples to every corner of the world. Millions of individuals and organizations were suddenly faced with a problem they haven’t faced before – is it possible to do full remote work for months or even years on end?
Many companies stood up to the challenge and somehow made it work. Others are still trying to figure out how to properly transition their employees and workers into the new normal. There are many challenges when adapting to remote working jobs, but one challenge sits at the top of any organization’s priority lists: communication.
We’ve been used to communicating with each other using a multichannel approach. We communicate in person verbally and through gestures and facial expressions. We also communicate through our phones, social media accounts, email, etc. Because of the pandemic, the entire communication dynamic is suddenly transformed into a fully digital experience.
Common Remote Team Communication Challenges
Remote communication isn’t always easy. It’s changing how we speak and communicate, from awkward hand gestures to bullet points. It’s also affecting what we hear, as the overwhelming jumble of information coming at us can lead to frequent misunderstandings and confusion. People who work on remote teams or are managed by a remote staffing agency face these challenges consistently, and many more. Let’s discuss some of these challenges and find out how much our communication dynamics have transformed to adapt to the new normal.
In a remote setup, it’s important to communicate with your team more closely. However, there is such a thing as overcommunication, which can lead to productivity issues. It can be difficult to focus and get any work done when you constantly receive messages from colleagues and notifications from the numerous work applications you use. Imagine being a remote worker who’s being bombarded with messages from your colleagues, superiors, and your clients. Similarly, impromptu and sporadically scheduled meetings are like throwing a monkey wrench to an employee’s productivity.
Avoid overcommunicating by keeping yourself in check. There’s a fine line between overcommunication and under-communication where you should be operating. Don’t leave your employees left out without a clue, but at the same time, you shouldn’t make them feel like they’re being micromanaged.
Relying Too Much on Email and Phone Calls
While email is far from being dead, it is no longer the preferred way of communicating for teams on remote working jobs. It exists as a way to document important business exchanges, but it shouldn’t be a platform for real-time conversations. Relying solely on emails can actually cause more harm than good, resulting in more misunderstandings.
At the same time, calling up your colleagues and employees without giving them prior notice makes you look insensitive and very much intrusive. In the same vein as over-communication, you need to find the right balance and the proper platform to deliver your message. Online chat programs and SMS can be a great way to provide real-time information without being too intrusive or confusing.
Problems with Technology
Communication tools serve as the de facto messengers of the digital world. They are the backbone of remote teams, helping you collaborate and communicate with each other effectively even if you’re working in different time zones. However, if you’re somehow using the wrong tool for communication, then the opposite can happen.
It’s essential to utilize communication tools that align with your company’s culture and internal processes. If the tool you’re using is too complicated to use or just not a good fit for your team, then you might want to look for something different.
How Remote Teams Can Collaborate Effectively
When remote teams communicate well and leverage their strengths, they can actually gain an advantage over co-located teams. But for that to be possible, you need to become more effective communicators. Here are some best practices to master:
1. Don’t conflate brief communications and clear communications.
Remote working jobs often give greater importance to efficiency. In our efforts to be efficient, we sometimes use fewer words when delivering a message. Being too concise with your message can sometimes leave your team wasting more time trying to interpret what you’re saying. Instead of doing this, you should spend the time communicating with the intention of being ultra clear and straightforward, regardless of the medium.
2. Recognize and reduce affinity distance when communicating.
Virtual distance is a measurable disconnect that occurs when human beings rely heavily on smart, digital devices to communicate. When it comes to remote collaboration, there are three kinds of the virtual distance involved:
- Physical (place and time)
- Operational (team size, bandwidth, and skill levels)
- Affinity (values, trust, and interdependency)
Leaders and managers in your organization should always focus on reducing affinity distance. This is perhaps the most effective way of driving team performance. Try switching most remote communication to regular video calls, which are a much better platform to use for establishing rapport and creating empathy among team members. Designing virtual team-building rituals is also recommended, so your team members have the opportunity to interact regularly and experience their collaboration skills in action.
3. Create a space dedicated to celebrations
Do you miss those old-school birthday cakes that you and your team enjoy when celebrating each other’s birthdays? That could still be a thing for remote teams but modified to cater to work in a remote setup. Creating virtual spaces and rituals for celebrations and socializing can strengthen relationships and lay the foundation for future collaboration. This is also a great way to reduce affinity distance.
One good idea is to create custom greeting cards or infographics when congratulating team members on their work anniversaries and other milestones. Birthday cards and welcome cards can also be done as an alternative. It doesn’t matter what form it takes as long as it helps create team spaces for social connection.
As more and more interactions happen digitally, even in a post-pandemic era, individuals and businesses will continue to experience new forms of communication that have their own set of challenges. While new technologies are welcome to bridge any communication gaps, it’s still up to you to understand how the new normal works and how you can propose new solutions for effective communication.
CrewBloom is an outsourcing staffing agency that connects businesses with top global talent. Whether you need call center agents, virtual assistants, or appointment setters, we help you find the right people you need for the job. Partner with our remote staffing agency today and let our CrewBloomers contribute to the growth of your company.