72% of workers feel disengaged, and 79% are unsure whether to interrupt someone during online meetings.1
These statistics (and many others) prove that knowing about remote work communication's best practices is crucial. Hybrid work and flexitime are two working models enhancing employee satisfaction and work-life balance. Having happy and healthy team members often leads to more productivity and successful outcomes. Yet, a poor communication strategy can completely wipe off the perks of flexible work arrangements.
To help you develop efficient communication in remote working, we researched and identified the most common challenges when collaborating from different locations. How do you keep home officers engaged in virtual meetings? Which communication channels are the best for your workforce? How do you decrease the risks of misunderstanding?
We have then listed seven useful recommendations and the top digital tools to share with team leaders. Combined, they help you foster better communication and teamwork in your hybrid work environment.
The most common remote teams communication challenges
The risk of silos arises with poor, remote work communication
One of the downsides of remote work is the possible creation of silos. Although it happens more often among fully remote companies, it can also occur in hybrid businesses with a poor communication strategy. Interacting and having conversations with their team members can be a challenge. So imagine connecting with workers from other departments; it becomes even harder.
Too much communication can be overwhelming and counterproductive
According to an OwlLabs study about hybrid work, 38% of remote workers declare spending too much time in meetings. There is no doubt that communication is essential to manage a team successfully. However, not seeing your staff members in person as often as you used to doesn’t mean you should schedule daily calls and meetings (except if it is your staff’s request)! It can lead to the opposite result than the one expected.
Inappropriate communication channels impact productivity and efficiency
Do you provide your staff with video conferencing tools? Studies also show that remote workers miss face-to-face interactions. Moreover, 76% of employees say not being able to see their colleagues’ faces is an issue as they miss visual cues1. Working with the wrong resources and lacking clear rules about how to use them deeply impact remote teams’ productivity and efficiency. They might wonder, “Should I share this information via Slack or e-mail?” Ultimately, blurry communication policies also create frustration and disengagement.
Technology and Internet issues impact hybrid teams’ communication
According to the Cisco Broadband Index 2022, 48% of the global workforce uses personal Internet for work. Many also work on private devices such as computers, phones, tablets, etc. A wrong configuration or inappropriate equipment can also create communication problems. For example, audio and echo distortion during online meetings is a common issue. 77% of people declare that being unable to hear everyone properly in virtual meetings is one of their main concerns regarding remote work communication1.
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Risks of miscommunication increase
Many aspects can lead to miscommunication. Written messages can be interpreted differently from one person to another. Cultural differences, like not being an English-native speaker, can also result in communication issues. This happens in the physical workspace too. Yet, being in different locations, having potential technology issues (sound cuts), and not being a native speaker increases the chance of miscommunication and misunderstanding.
Trust issues sometimes arise among hybrid teams
Poor communication can impact the trust that has been built with and among your team. This sometimes makes managers start micromanaging, which can have psychological effects on workers. But as team members don’t share regular information about each other’s work and struggle to engage with one another, they also start to lose trust in their colleagues.
Employee engagement drops without good remote work communication practices
Do you think your coworkers are as engaged in digital meetings as they are when in the office? If not, don’t worry, you are not the only one. 72% of employees feel disengaged during virtual meetings, and 74% find it challenging to contribute to an online conversation1. Numerous aspects can play into their lack of engagement. For example, not hearing properly due to technological issues, feeling disconnected from the rest of the team, which is together on-site, or not knowing when the right time to talk without interrupting somebody else is.
Transparency and the use of clear instructions fail
Keeping employees updated when you can just stop by their desks to share new information is easier than when working in different locations. After a few years of remote work, staying as transparent and clear about the company’s updates with remote workers as you are on-site is one of the biggest challenges. Home officers tend to feel excluded and miss clear instructions about their tasks.
7 remote work communication's best practices to adopt
1. Determine which communication tools your team needs
The remote work communication tools you provide your team have to answer their needs, match their expectations, and align with your organizational culture. Don’t provide too many options but don’t offer only one either. Find the right balance and clearly explain the purpose of each resource. For example, e-mail important and generic communication. However, use instant messaging to ask one of your coworkers a quick question. Opt for a video conference if you need to share a new update with the whole team.
2. Create a remote work communication best practices guideline for and with your employees
Communication is the lifeblood of successful collaboration. Therefore, everybody needs to be on the same page regarding communicating and interacting. You must be clear about your communication strategy and expectations regarding this topic. Once you determine your needs and your employees’ expectations, establish a clear communication guideline and share it with all your staff.
3. Maintain a feedback culture
In both directions, feedback is essential to get the best out of a team. This is often an aspect that employees miss when working remotely. Keep providing feedback and ask for some in return too. It will improve your collaboration, help everyone grow, and enable you to pinpoint any issues or areas of improvement.
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4. Be transparent and clear about your expectations
Being kept in the loop and updated about changes is vital when working remotely. As a team leader, you must be transparent with your remote employees and give them clear instructions about your expectations. To boost productivity and maintain a good atmosphere among your team, you need to act similarly with both your on-site and remote staff.
5. Use team-building games during your virtual meetings
The downsides of working remotely include the risk of team disconnection, isolation, and disengagement. Try boosting motivation and fostering team bonding with online group activities when your team is low. Maintaining strong connections when everyone works in different locations is challenging. But it should be at the top of your list of priorities. Communicating is much easier when there is a sense of belonging and community.
6. Organize virtual water cooler events regularly
After-work events and coffee breaks are always great for socializing, breaking the ice, and learning more about colleagues. So, how can you maintain these informal social interactions with a hybrid workforce? One solution is to organize digital water coolers. You know your team members better than we do, so try to figure out what could trigger their interest. For example, why not create a Slack channel to share recipes if you work in the food industry?
7. Be as available virtually as you are in the office
Last but not least, the same as being as transparent and clear when working remotely as you are on-site, your team should also feel entitled to come to you when needed. Be clear about this topic and remind them they can contact you anytime (within your working hours). If employees feel they can't communicate with you as they would in the physical workplace, they might start being disengaged and disconnected.
6 fundamental tools for effective communication in remote working
1. Online video conferencing resources
Investing in online video tools like Zoom or Google Meet is necessary to answer the remote teams’ need for face-to-face interactions. Remind them that switching on their cameras isn’t mandatory. Yet, seeing colleagues is much more pleasant and interactive. They can always blur or add a background if they don’t want their colleagues to see how their home looks like.
2. Asynchronous communication tools
When Stephany works from New York, Mary in Berlin, and Jon only works from 11 a.m., your workforce communicates asynchronously. This type of communication requires appropriate technology to keep sharing information and interacting efficiently. Asynchronous communication tools like Trello or Notion allow your team members to leave non-urgent messages to their colleagues anytime.
3. Instant messaging platforms
Rare are businesses not using instant messaging today. From WhatsApp to Slack, these platforms are perfect when remote team members need a fast answer or want to share a quick update. Should employees talk to each other formally, or is it OK to use a friendly tone of voice and emojis? This is your choice, according to your organizational culture and what you think is best for your workforce.
Technology plays a key role in the evolution of the workplace. When it comes to communication, the development of hybrid workplace technology seems unstoppable. Web 3 technology, such as virtual reality (VR) tools and the metaverse, shouldn’t be overlooked. Actually, 39% of office workers think the metaverse could improve flexible and hybrid working in the future1.
5. Project management software
Project management software is a core resource for boosting interaction and communication. It provides a centralized platform for collaboration, task management, and real-time updates. Project management tools ensure efficient coordination, improve transparency and improve communication among remote team members.
6. Office space management software
Office space management software also has a role to play in improving collaboration and communication. Week planning and desk booking platforms like deskbird can be integrated into your communication tools. Knowing where your staff work enables you to organize meetings accordingly. For example, if half the team works on-site the following Monday and the other half remotely, consider using a room with VR technology for this meeting.
Effective communication in remote working is crucial to maintain smooth collaboration and foster productivity. Silos, excessive communication, inappropriate channels, technology issues, miscommunication risks, and trust problems are common obstacles that often hinder remote teams. Implementing remote work communication’s best practices minimizes these issues. It is essential to determine suitable communication channels, create guidelines, maintain a feedback culture, be transparent, and foster connection. Providing your employees with the right tools is also fundamental.
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