With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world, many of us are no strangers to the idea of remote working, and the chances are that you and your employees have done some form of remote working or working from home at some point throughout 2020. However, while there are plenty of difficulties and obstacles to overcome when getting set up and finding your way and what works for you, there’s no denying that the biggest problems come down to communication issues.If you can master the art of communication within your remote team, so many other potential problems are solved; it’s just a case of finding them and preventing them from happening. As the title suggests, any kind of communication can be so destructive to the team’s productivity, so the more you face, the worse it gets.Throughout the rest of this post, I’m going to be talking you through the worst mistakes you need to avoid, how to avoid them, and everything else you need to know to keep communication clear and productivity high. Let’s get into it.
Table of Contents
Not Being Clear and Concise
By far, the most important aspect of communication you need to master when working within a remote team, or in kind of business setting, for that matter, is being clear and concise with the way you communicate.
Let’s say you send an email out to someone, and you’re saying something like, “Hey, I noticed the project was late, and I need it as soon as possible. Thanks.” It’s not a bad email, but if you were saying it to someone’s face, then this is all you’ll need to say.
This is because they can read your body language and hear the tone of voice you’re saying it in. Over an email or a text message, this is not the case. Depending on who you’re speaking to, the person on the other end may take your message in a different way.
With this example, they might think, oh, cool, the boss is being really nice and chill. Awesome. I’ll send that over at some point. Or they might start to panic that you’re really angry and mad with them, and then the worry leads to them being distracted and panicked, which means they’re not fully focusing on their work.
Never assume in digital communication that people will understand exactly how you feel and what you mean in what you say. You need to be extra careful and put more effort into making sure you’re understood clearly and concisely, even if you’re, in a certain sense, over-communicating.
Over-communicating minimizes the risk of error or problems coming up in the future and ensures everyone remains productive.
Talking Out in Public
Picture this, you’re at work, and you’re trying to get stuff done, but you need to ask a question, so you call up the team leader or the boss, and all you can hear in the background are people talking, general traffic noise, train announcements, and so on. How do you feel?
Well, distracted and unfocused. You’re going to spend more time and energy trying to figure out what the other person is saying, rather than actually focusing on what needs to be done, and this is a massive productivity killer. Avoid it at all costs.
Instead, as the boss answering the phone, always make sure you’re in a quiet place with minimal distractions before taking a call. If someone needs something, then find somewhere quiet to take the call first.
Multi-tasking at the Same Time
Hand in hand with the point above, if you’re talking on the phone to someone about something important and all you can hear is the keyboard keys clacking or the mouse clicking, you immediately think that the person you’re talking to is distracted and isn’t paying attention to you. This puts you off talking to them, and thus you’re not 100% in the conversation.
When you’re on the phone or video calling someone, give them your full attention and don’t multitask. Sure, take notes on your computer or pull up a webpage if the situation demands it, but most of the time, you’ll need to talk to the person properly.
If you don’t and you’re multitasking, concentrating on something else, then you may mishear or give misinformation to the person you’re speaking to, and this is where problems will arise.
Not Remembering Time Zone Difference
If you’re working from home and everyone who works in your office leaves in the same city or at least the same country, then this may not be too much of a problem, but if you’re hiring remote employees from all over the world, then this is such a vital point to consider.
Whereas you may be calling or chatting with someone during your own working hours, it could be the middle of the night for this other person, so you need to make sure you’re being considerate and finding a middle ground that works for you both.
A really quick way to alienate people who remote work within your team is not thinking about this point, so be prepared to make compromises and include everyone in the decisions when it comes to choosing timings for interactions.
Failing to Minimize Distractions
It’s understandable that distractions are going to happen from time to time. Many of us working from home have families, partners, pets, and children, and if you’re in a meeting for work, there are no guarantees that you can stop the dog barking or the kids from fully taking over.
Although, not going to lie, they sometimes have hilarious consequences, Poor Dr. Kelly.
While we’re not all going to be on live TV during our meetings, the impact of distractions remains very much the same and will lead to miscommunication and unproductive employees. TLDR; minimize distractions as much as possible to keep as much focus up as possible.
Not Optimising Communication to Essential People
I’ve worked with a lot of businesses, and one thing I see happening over and over again is the boss being sent something important and then just chain linking it in an email and cc’ing everyone in the team. If people don’t need to know information, then don’t send it to them. You’re just wasting their time and annoying them.
When sending information and sharing files, only give people who need the information the information. Nobody wants to wake up and have to sift through potentially dozens of emails, trying to see if any of them are actually relevant to them. It’s unproductive and a waste of time. Give people what they need to succeed and nothing more.
Not Creating Proper Channels
We’ve spoken a lot about how you need to optimize how you communicate, but little on how you communicate. I’m talking about the channels in which you chat, or which there seem to be many these days. You might have a Slack and a Teams channel. You have email, Zoom calls, and text messaging. You may have group chats and social media pages.
What you need to do to boost productivity, and just to keep things organized and moving forward, is to use specific channels of communication for specific reasons. For example, talking about project work could be in the Slack channel, and meetings can be in Zoom. You may want to keep text messaging for strictly social messaging and emails for updates.
You may want to use Remote Team to handle everything.
It’s really up to you to see what works for you and your team; the important takeaway to remember here is that you should dedicate channels for specific purposes. This way, people will know exactly what to expect when they access their messages, and all the information for each part of your business can be kept together and in an organized fashion.
Not Allowing for Feedback
No matter what points you’re working on or what kind of communication you’re using, you’re never going to be able to predict the ins and outs of how things will work within your business. This means you’re never going to be able to predict all the problems and obstacles, nor get things right the first time, no matter how hard you try.
The trick here is to open the doors for feedback. How would the people in your team make things better? What tools do they need to get their work done, and what kind of integrations would make productivity higher, and make their lives easier?
How you receive the feedback is really up to you. You may use a suggestion box or allow time within a meeting or email for people to get in touch. The important thing for you to remember, either way, is that you need to offer time for this to happen.