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8 Proven Communication Strategies to Manage a Remote Team

21 September 2022

7 min read

Lynette Teo
Lynette Teo

Managing a team remotely can be difficult. Without a central place for everyone to gather, assessing project status and building a remote team culture can be difficult. With the right tactics, managing a remote team shouldn’t be difficult. In a previous article, we discussed the common mistakes when communicating with remote teams. 

This post covers the key steps required to create an efficient communication process with remote teams.

1. Choose the Right Tools

If you’re wondering how to overcome communication challenges with remote teams, don’t worry. You are not alone. The easiest way is to use your existing communication tools. 

You have different tools at your disposal, each with a specific function. Choosing the best communication tool for your remote team can be difficult, but there are some comparison guides online to help you narrow your choices. 

Categories

Examples

Screen sharing

Team Viewer, Remote PC

Video conferencing

Zoom, Go to meetings, Microsoft Teams

Collaborative

Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive

Project management

Asana, Basecamp, Monday.com

Remote communication

Slack, Microsoft Teams

Calendars and to-do-lists

Google Calendar, Asana, Basecamp

The table below provides a list of various tools that facilitate remote team communication, along with some examples. Some tools may fall into multiple categories.

2. Train Your Employees to Use These Tools

Even the best remote team communication tools don’t guarantee success. To get the most out of these tools, team members should be trained to use them. This means that you may need to set aside time to train your team members on how to get the most out of these tools. 

You can also add policies on how these rules are applied. For example, you can decide how to share files and tools with people outside your company by using secure passwords.  

3. Create an Online Office Culture

Informal communication makes employees feel more comfortable in the office. While this may not apply to remote teams, it’s possible to develop an online office culture. You can do the following. 

  • Set up formal and informal communication channels. Unofficial channels can be used to report everyday issues and memes. 
  • Watch your tone. Adding context can help keep your message from sounding rude. For example, instead of saying, “My client wants the documents by the deadline, please send them to me as soon as possible” versus “I need the documents ASAP.” 

Schedule time with your team. You can schedule a time to meet and share on a regular basis. Encourage members to speak freely without being rude during this time. Members can learn to be more considerate of each other and voice their grievances during this period.

4. Strive for Inclusion and Fairness

When team members are spread out, it’s easy to get into a “you and us” mentality. Remote teams can feel isolated and left out, especially if the manager is mostly onsite working with the rest of the team. 

Making each team member feel valued and involved is important for productivity and teamwork. That’s why you should strive to make everyone feel part of the team. 

Here’s what you can do: 

  •  Give each team member equal time and support 
  •  Share decisions made in informal meetings with remote workers 
  •  Find a way to physically bring everyone together  
  •  Find ways to get everyone involved in team meetings 

5. Establish a Communication Policy

Developing communication guidelines can improve the effectiveness of remote team leadership. For example, list out the different message types that each medium can convey. 

You can also configure when the communication channel is open and when it is closed. In addition, you can decide what is considered suitable and what is not. These guidelines can be recorded in the employee handbook that is distributed to each employee. 

6. Set Clear Deadlines and Expectations

The reason why managers micromanage the team is because they worry that one of their team members will do something that will damage their reputation. Therefore, the need for constant supervision. This is more common and difficult when working with remote teams. Managers can use one or more of the collaborative technologies mentioned above to maintain control by dividing tasks, assigning them, and setting deadlines and expectations. 

This way, managers can effectively communicate their expectations to each team member and reduce the need for supervision. Now that the tasks have been split, team members are less likely to make mistakes and have more room to work. 

7. Schedule Regular Check-Ins

Even though meetings may have a bad reputation, they are inevitable. You have to find a balance between over-scheduling and under-check-ins. 

Do regular check-ins with your team members, especially team leaders, to ensure everything is running smoothly and to resolve any issues they may have.

8. Don't Forget Mental Health and Well-Being

Employees also find it difficult to work in hybrid teams. Due to the close proximity to the management, employees in the office may feel more pressure to work harder. 

Remote workers, on the other hand, may feel they need to work harder to prove their credibility. Either way, employees must learn to adapt in some way.  

As a manager, you have a responsibility to ensure that everyone is healthy, both mentally and physically. Take the time to listen to how your employees feel about their work and offer support when needed.

How to Build A Remote Communication Culture: The Dos and Don'ts

Now that you’ve learned some tips on how to communicate with your remote team, the infographic below will discuss some of the more common but important practices that will help support effective communication over time. 

Do’s

Find ways to build personal connections. Internal messaging tools are very useful for this

Practice empathy when dealing with team members 

Send messages focused on specific topics rather than emails with all the information. This makes it easier to follow up

Minimize communication and schedule quiet times when team members have time to work. One way to do this is by communicating in bursts. Asynchronous communication methods are useful here

Assign messages to appropriate channels 

Create informal channels. Here team members can celebrate victories, joke, and relax

Establish communication norms. You can create a communication guide manual that dictates what types of messages go where and what terms can be used to filter importance

For introverts, for example, appreciate the benefits of long-distance communication and use it to your advantage

 

Don’ts

What you should do instead

Don’t micromanage

Use project management and to-do list apps to categorize work, set expectations, and delegate work to team members. 

Don’t mistake summarizing your message with effective communication

If you keep sentences short or use words sparingly, you run the risk of being misunderstood. Instead, find a balance between clarity and being brief. 

Don’t overwhelm team members with constant communication

This is especially true if you are exchanging the same message across multiple channels. Determine your communication needs and focus on the most effective medium. 

Don’t confuse constant communication with effectiveness

If members are constantly replying to messages, they may be spending very little time on the project. 

Don’t send meaningless messages

All communication should have a purpose, except in chat rooms for fun. 

Don’t ghost your teammates

If you can’t open the message and reply, send a short message so you can confirm receipt and edit the content. 

Do not broadcast biased content

Sending a friend a political or obscene message may be fine, but it may not elicit the same reaction in your workgroup. 

Don’t send incomplete information

This only causes confusion or lack of clarity. Instead, wait till you have all the information before conveying it.

Don’t forget to adhere to the meeting duration 

Be mindful of everyone’s time. If you are presenting, keep it straight to the point. Set a timer to keep track of time and some buffers for questions. 

Conclusion

It’s clear that hybrid work is here to stay. Managers should find ways to best manage and lead their teams. Every team is different and has different needs and requirements. Find out what works for your team and take advantage of it. The points above can be a good guide to help you think about what you need to do.

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