Remote work is here to stay, and that’s good news for both employers and employees. For employers, hiring remote workers opens up the potential for finding the best talent globally while improving cost-efficiency. For employees, remote work is a more convenient option than local, in-house employment. In fact, one recent Gallup poll found that 51 percent of workers in the United States would change jobs for more flextime. As Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, explains: “This is a very professional and viable option and it’s not going anywhere.”
The Remote Work Revolution
Recent industry reports show that globally, 56 percent of companies allow some degree of remote work and 16 percent of companies are fully remote. This trend is likely to grow into an industry standard. Some of the biggest and most successful companies in the world now rely on remote teams, including Amazon, Dell, Cisco, and many others. And with nearly 100,000 remote workers spread out over 150 cities in more than 50 countries, Google shows how building effective communication with remote teams contributes to the overall health and growth of a company.
Communication Strategies for Remote Teams
When growing your business, it’s cost-effective to hire remote employees and outsource work to contractors. Establishing a strong relationship with your contractors and remote workers and keeping them engaged is key to success. A healthy remote work culture depends on effective communication between management and the distributed team. Effective communication also increases team satisfaction and productivity.
Investing in developing communication skills and encouraging open lines of communication between distributed team members is a sure way to smooth task management and make hitting targets that much easier.
Put the right person in the right role
Onboarding remote employees is a challenge. Take the time to get to know prospective team members and identify their strengths. Placing the right person in the right role will make sure your company doesn’t become a revolving door and will increase productivity. Speak often during the onboarding period to establish open communication and make sure to connect new team members with their colleagues. This helps foster collaboration and teamwork from the outset despite physical distance.
Establish attainable targets
Once a new employee is successfully onboarded, it’s important to communicate your performance expectations. Be clear and concise when communicating key performance indicators (KPIs) so that remote team members know exactly what they need to do and when they need to do it. Once KPIs are in place, give remote workers opportunities to voice pain points and strategize solutions.
There’s no replacement for face-to-face
Of course, flying around to have in-person meetings with remote teams is not efficient. But, prioritizing video calls over email or even voice calls helps personalize the relationships between management and remote teams, and also amongst distributed workers. This helps to compensate for the “water-cooler effect” and encourages better communication.
Set clear, respectful boundaries
Working remotely can be isolating, making regular communication important. But when remote teams are distributed across multiple time zones, it is also important to be accommodating when scheduling meetings. Give plenty of prior notification, avoid last-minute changes, and try to rotate time zones, even if it’s less convenient.
Use tech to your advantage
Whether it’s hardware or software, the right technology promotes communication and maximizes efficiency—and there are plenty of options out there. Do some research and integrate platforms that work both for you and your remote team. These include task and documentation management software, video conferencing platforms and secure payment solutions to save time and money while building trust and communication.
Be brief where you can
Over-explanation causes confusion. Keep communications with remote staff brief and direct to prevent any crossing of wires. Layout instructions in clear steps, set focused objectives, and create agreed-upon timeframes and deadlines. Don’t ramble in your emails or on phone calls, and follow an agenda for every meeting you hold. The more clarity you add to your vision, the better the experience is for the whole team.
But don’t skip out on context
I know, I know, we just told you to keep it short. But it’s important that your directions are crystal clear and that your logic and reasoning is easy to follow. It does take time to create a message that combines brevity with direction, but it’s worth it in the end as it saves you time and reduces headaches in the future. Be liberal with relevant context, but organize your thoughts well and in a meaningful fashion. Use bullet points, add bolded text for emphasis, or highlight important passages in written forms of communication, and be concise with your verbal communication.
Engage with everyone
When you’re part of a remote team, there’s a certain amount of isolation to be anticipated. But you don’t have to let it invade your team. Take the initiative to reach out to team members and check-in with everyone regularly and equally. Aside from preventing anyone from feeling left out, regular communication keeps your team on the same page and allows anyone with a question the chance to ask it.
And when you check-in with your team regularly, bonds begin to form. Nourish them and your team will open up and learn more about one another, their roles, and how their contributions to the team come together. You could do this in the form of something like a Slack channel for general conversation or a remote happy hour. The more communication, both on- and off-topic, the better it is for business.
Create a database to capture institutional knowledge
Working remotely makes it harder to get a sense of the company’s culture, so create a database to index institutional knowledge, policies and procedures, and branding guidelines. That way, the next time someone has a question, there’s a consistent, easy-to-find answer neatly filed away in your company wiki.
Know your team’s purpose and align with it regularly
Your team exists for a reason, so know it and own it by communicating it regularly to your team. Whether that’s through goal orientation meetings, a shared file in which your team documents your collective vision for the future, or by simply scrawling it on a notepad and reviewing it before every workday, frequently touch base with your team’s purpose to stay aligned with it.
Don’t make assumptions
Don’t take offense to emails and messages that feel curt. If you were expecting an explanation and received only “k” in response, don’t take it personally. Do reach out for more clarification, but remind yourself that there’s a human on the other end of that screen—and they’re only human. It’s never safe to make assumptions or read too much into what feels like an unnecessarily short reply.
Schedule meetings mindfully
Your team could be scattered across the globe or all within the same city, so be mindful of time zone differences when scheduling meetings. Also, consider personal work schedules; Rachel in Montana may not start work until 9 am her time, while Travis in Edinburgh starts promptly at 7:30 am in his time. Knowing when your teammates start and end their days, both personally and according to their time zone, makes scheduling meetings a lot easier. So sync up calendars if you can, especially for those working across a global network, and keep a running log (maybe in your online database?) of everyone’s general availability.
Pay your team fairly
It may not seem that ensuring fair and consistent compensation is a communication skill, but it certainly goes a long way toward establishing trust. If you pay well and on time, your remote team will be more loyal and productive. In this video, Time Doctor co-founder and CMO Liam Martin explains how paying remote workers over market value can actually lower costs and improve productivity.
Enter Payoneer. Millions of remote employees, contractors, and suppliers prefer to get paid with Payoneer. To ensure your business thrives, pay your remote teams quickly, easily and with a variety of payment options, including bank transfers, credit cards, and eChecks, to best suit the needs of your business and your remote team. With Payoneer, you can pay your remote employees for project-based work, or schedule automatic payments for monthly contracts. To learn more, visit the Payoneer website.
Taking action on these strategies will improve communication with your remote team and encourage collaboration and cooperation between distributed team members. Every individual on your team is an integral part of the company’s success, and these strategies will ensure that remote workers are included, valued, and given plenty of opportunities to communicate.
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