What’s the most important skill humans have in any environment? Any idea?
It’s the incredible human power of communication. The act of expressing your ideas, thoughts, or feelings to someone else. Communication is a message through words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to exchange information in any environment. It’s the only skill that allows humans to become social. But despite all its positive aspects, communication challenges are inevitable in a remote workplace.
Communication is at the heart of every company; it’s the key to any organization’s growth. In a remote workplace, good communication is an integral element to drive business success.
However, social distancing measures increased remote employees’ isolation, and their poor performance could spell the demise of a company.
Since 2020, millions of people have transitioned fully into remote work; and it was the first time for many. According to research from IT service company Atlas Cloud, employees across all age demographics experienced a slight decline in communication quality as remote workers.
So why is it so important to solve communication challenges in a remote workplace?
Why Is Communication Important?
At this point, you should know the answer. You’ve worked remotely for at least a year – if you weren’t a remote employee already. You’ve felt the importance of communication in a workplace, as well as its challenges. Let’s translate that feeling into words by going over the three main reasons why good communication is essential in a work environment.
1. Productivity is Covered
If the pandemic has taught us anything about remote work, it’s that remote employees can be just as productive and efficient at home as they were in the office. According to a study by Standford University professor Nicholas Bloom on China’s largest online travel agency Ctrip, employees proved to be more productive and 48% more motivated to work.
So don’t worry about productivity; that isn’t the genuine concern. It’s about how organizations manage and communicate with their remote workers.
2. Poor Communication Isn’t Free
Imagine your boss assigns you an urgent task. He’s desperate, has no time to help you or explain the project, and needs you to deliver it in two days. You’re alone on this. You have no context and no further explanation than the simple task waiting for you to mark it as “complete” on Basecamp.
You do what you can. And when you finish, your supervisor is crazier than ever; there are missing pieces everywhere. You completely misunderstood the goal, and now you must redo all of it. And do you think this is “free”?
What can be effectively communicated and solved from the start will now cost your company a lot of money and your team its precious time. You can see the losses in low employee morale, engagement, and high turnover.
3. New Communication Methods
Communication and collaboration are the critical cultivators of a company’s effectiveness. Many remote employees feel highly isolated from their teams, according to a study by the Harvard Business Review. Mandatory quarantine forced millions of people to work and communicate from their homes with no previous experience.
Communication methods changed, and remote employees should manage their teams accordingly. Discussing a project or idea is no more the simple act of walking to your colleagues’ desks and chatting. Remote employees’ communication, now more than ever, demands special effort from everyone.
How To Solve Communication Challenges in the Remote Workplace
Write and Apply Guidelines
One of the most critical concerns among remote workers is that they lack evidence of their colleagues’ work. When you’re at the office, it’s easy to see who is productive and who pretends to be. Working from home, you lose sight of what other employees do.
Setting guidelines and protocols for delivery will help keep everyone aligned. There’s no way to prove your colleagues are online when their green light is on. But if they complete their tasks on time, you’ll know they are productive.
So you could use the same communication tool – such as Basecamp – with the whole team to avoid distractions and stay updated on shared tasks. Try to share your work hour routine and availability at specific times to keep them aligned on your working hours. Also, remember to answer messages as fast as possible to prioritize effective collaboration and time management.
Encourage Constant Feedback
Feedback is a fantastic way to increase motivation. Both positive or negative criticism can transform and significantly evolve your remote team. As Bill Gates once said, “we all need people who will give us feedback; that’s how we improve.” And it’s entirely true!
Whether from a colleague or a supervisor, everyone needs to feel valued and accepted. Unfortunately, this can be difficult when you don’t have a personal relationship with your coworkers. That’s why feedback is so important in remote teams. Encouraging constant feedback with your colleagues could help you progress on projects and get to know each other better.
Feedback allows improvement, strengthens weaknesses, and boosts confidence. And there are various ways to do it. You can schedule weekly face-to-face meetings to keep the team’s feedback active. It’ll help you feel more engaged and motivated to create new projects.
Prioritize the Use of the Camera
Working from home eliminates all visual contact. It’s not like being in an office. During the whole day, you’ll wear the clothes you want, sit wherever you find comfortable, and listen to the music your mood is up to – even if it’s rock and roll – until you have a team meeting.
Though one of the reasons you love working from home is to do it in your pajamas, your coworkers need to see you. According to a study by Psychology Today, nonverbal cues make up over 93% of communication, so relying on messaging platforms and emails isn’t enough.
Video conferencing allows employees to develop stronger relationships with others on the team. It also stimulates team bonding since the talk isn’t always about work projects. But it’s only possible if you allow them to see you. So turn that camera on!
Schedule Regular Team Meetings
Poor communication reduces productivity among remote teams. When employees don’t meet regularly, work gets progressively siloed. And since they are working from home, more extended periods of loneliness and lack of communication can make them feel out of the loop.
Regular meetings prevent team members from feeling isolated. Together with your team, you could schedule a once-a-week video meeting for updates and progress reports on the projects each of you worked on. Regular virtual meetings strengthen teamwork and increase collaboration among remote team members.
But remember to strike the right balance between virtual meetings and schedules. It’s easy to fall into overdoing it with discussions, and suddenly your whole day is crowded with calls. Too many are a waste of time. Set a schedule for team meetings once a week and save some free time in case you need a 1:1 with a colleague.
You may want to read: How to Deal with Toxic Remote CoWorkers
Choose Your Communication Tools
It’s no news that productivity and satisfaction among remote workers have grown since the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of worldwide companies adapted new practices and worked every day to help employees increase their effectiveness at work. However, productivity directly depends on choosing and implementing the right tools for remote workers.
The purpose behind communication tools is to keep everyone aligned and engaged with projects. This helps avoid miscommunication that can pop up during your workday since you can review valuable information. There are thousands of communications tools you could adopt for your team. Most only take a few minutes to download and set up.
Together with your team, you could select a couple of tools for use at different times. You could use Zoom for video conferencing with your team, Slack for regular messaging, and Basecamp to keep track of all projects. Try to choose the one that’s more accessible and culturally connected for you and your colleagues.
It’s not all about work
Can you remember how awkward you felt during your first virtual meeting? People are talking to each other about shared projects, laughing about jokes you didn’t understand. You felt entirely out of the loop. How can you avoid that kind of meeting?
Working remotely keeps you away from the casual chat between colleagues that might have happened at the office. You went out for lunch with them, shared some 5-minute coffee, or even ran into each other at the office corridors. But working from home doesn’t mean everything you share with your team has to be about work.
Make some time for friendly chats with your coworkers. Try to get to know them better, get more personal with them. Do they have a pet? Do they live alone? What are their interests? You could also schedule a weekly time to play a game and help everyone relax. Bonding with your remote team could help you even improve your results at work.
Reread Your Messages
Written messages can often cause misunderstandings. The tone, the intention, or the expression may differ from the one you interpreted, and a snowball of miscommunication begins.
Though team messaging and emails can be excellent for urgent and casual communication, you must know how to express yourself through them. Make sure you reread your messages before sending them off to reduce the chance of wrong interpretations. It’ll only take you a few minutes, and you’ll save yourself from many misunderstandings.
Ready to Make the Change?
Communication is one of the most important skills humans have. It helps you express yourself and relate with others the way you intend to. It’s also the engine for the growth of any company.
Since 2020, the world of work has changed. Communication became an essential tool for remote workers and stopped being only a face-to-face interaction between colleagues. Unlike in previous years, written communication and virtual meetings gained greater importance, and remote teams must learn how to use them correctly.
You can make your switch now. You know the challenges, you have faced them, and they’ve been demanding. But the difference is you now know how to solve them. Get to know your colleagues, try to connect with them if you assign them a task, detail it as much as you can. In a remote workplace, it´s better to say more than to lack information. And remember, always keep your camera on!