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6 Effective Communication Methods for Managing a remote team

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They say that communication is "the oxygen of a distributed enterprise". And that's a good analogy, because remote teams need good communication strategies to survive and thrive.
Just think of all the ways that office based teams interact with each other: traditional meetings, brainstorming around a whiteboard, visiting someone's office to ask a quick question, solving a tricky problem face-to-face over lunch, catching up in the break room, and many other little ways that colleagues connect and interact with each other.
The question is, how do you make these important connections when your colleagues may be spread across several cities or even countries?

As long as you are part of a remote team, it is easy to take for granted the importance of these types of interactions in building a team and creating a sense of unity and purpose.

Jared Ponchot, Creative Director at Lullabot (a fully distributed company), suggests three types of communication that all remote teams need to integrate into their workflow:

Asynchronous communication

It is the backbone of many distributed teams, especially those spread across multiple time zones. As the name implies, asynchronous communication is not synchronized. Instead of a real-time conversation, it is a written exchange that takes place according to each person's schedule.
For remote teams where most collaboration is online, this would be like someone leaving a note in a messaging application - for example, Slack or Skype - where the other person could read and respond at their convenience. That's why this method is preferable for questions or conversations that are not time-sensitive.
Examples: email, direct messaging, posting updates or issues on project management platforms (GitHub, Trello, Basecamp, etc.).

Synchronous communication

This type of communication, on the other hand, is synchronized - two or more people agree to communicate using the same method at the same time. This type of communication can be in writing, but is not mandatory. Good old-fashioned phone calls are the original method of synchronous communication, but modern technology has given us many other options.
Synchronous communication is a good option when things need to be done more quickly, or when it is important to ask questions and get immediate answers, or to allow participants to bounce ideas around and get active feedback.
Examples: live chat, video calls or meetings, online voice calls, phone calls, etc.\

Face-to-face communication

Many totally remote companies schedule semi-annual meetings for individual teams and/or the entire workforce. Whether it's retreats, "just for fun," workshops, conferences or other activities, face-to-face events like these help teams "recharge the intangibles that technology can't capture," as Scott Berkun says in his book, The Year Without Pants : and the Future of Work.

Ponchot points out that some things are really difficult to achieve without people being together in the same room, such as :
  • Relationship building
  • Strategy development and dissemination of the vision
  • The resolution of complex problems or conflicts

But how do you make room for all these types of communication when you work from home or in a shared workspace? With a plan in place, it's not difficult to communicate effectively with a team from a distance.

Here are six tips based on the experiences of successful distributed teams:

6 tips for effective communication with remote colleagues

Give each method of communication a specific purpose

With all the communication methods and applications available, it can be easy to end up with several tools when one or two would suffice. Sometimes doing more is not better, and having too many communication methods can become chaotic, both to stay focused on your own work and to allow others to contact you easily.

When communication is a free-for-all rather than a strategic scrum, the tools that are supposed to save time and increase efficiency can turn "every minute into an opportunity for conversation, essentially 'meeting' all day long", to use a phrase from Samuel Hulick's essay on the potential pitfalls of a permanent approach to communication in the workplace.
This kind of constant distraction can rob you of your workday and impair your concentration and productivity. But the antidote to communication is simply to give each tool or platform a specific purpose. Instead of leaving everyone to their own preferences, work with your manager or team to establish a few guidelines: for example, designate Skype for live or urgent conversations, and Slack for non-urgent messages, with a designated channel for fun or informal conversations.
When remote workers have a game plan on how to get in touch with their teammates in each situation, everyone can avoid wasted time, frustration and missed connections.

Use calendar and task management tools

When team members are not all in the same place - and may have very different work schedules - special care must be taken to keep track of when people are available and what is being done, especially for projects that require the contribution of several people.
Sharing calendars or schedules online, posting updates on availability and holidays, and using references such as "Every Time Zone" or "World Time Buddy" when planning meetings or other team activities can all be good practice.
For project tracking, tools such as Trello (free) and Asana (free for up to 15 people) are popular choices for remote teams.

Set up a virtual "water cooler"

In an office, getting to know your colleagues is automatically integrated into the environment. You spend most of the week together: you work side by side, you have lunch together, you commiserate on difficult projects, you chat around the proverbial water fountain (or the vending machine, or the ping-pong table, or what most offices have these days). Teammates need to get to know each other personally to some extent.
But for distributed teams, this is not necessarily the case, and you have to be more intentional to connect. What do you do when you are part of a virtual team?
One thing that can help is to create an online space (a chat room, a blog, a Facebook group, etc.) to share content that is not work-related and just for fun. ) to share non-business related content and just for fun.

Use controls and milestones

It can be easy to lose track of what everyone is working on when you are not in the same place as your colleagues. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Integrating a progress tracking or to-do list application into your workflow can be a great way to keep the whole team on the same page. Not only can it serve as a motivational and accountability tool, but it can also function as an asynchronous way for team members to stay on top of tasks and projects.
Some of the most popular options include Todoist and Weekdone.

Celebrate successes

When working alone from a home office, you may feel a little disconnected from your colleagues. You may even feel that your work is not recognized.
This feeling of isolation can be avoided if the whole team makes an effort to recognize each other's accomplishments and acknowledge good work, both individually and collectively - even if it's just a little shout at Slack or a thank-you email. Nothing energizes a team more than the feeling of having worked together to accomplish something.

Watch your tone

One of the greatest pitfalls of written communication is its susceptibility to misinterpretation or misunderstanding. Without visual and verbal cues such as facial expression, body language, intonation, and other cues we use to determine meaning, messages can sometimes be perceived as terse, angry, or rude when they were not meant to be.

That's why it's worth making an extra effort to review each message before sending it, perhaps writing a little more than you would, communicating too much, just to make sure your meaning is as clear as possible.

Many remote teams find that using emojis can sometimes help to humanize, clarify or lighten the tone of a message, but this will of course depend on your corporate culture and what is or is not considered professional.

If you're looking for an HRIS system to increase productivity of your remote employees, we suggest you IceHrm which is one of the best HRIS systems which has so many HR functions automated into one system.

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