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6 Tips For Improving Communication At Remote Work

6 Tips For Improving Communication At Remote Work

Implement daily video check-ins, utilize collaborative tools like Slack, hold weekly Zoom meetings, and establish clear communication protocols to enhance remote team cohesion and productivity.

Show Empathy

The ability to demonstrate empathy in a remote work environment is essential. Here are examples of how this can be accomplished along with accompanying techniques and potentially useful apps and platforms.

Personalized Communication Styles

Example: Your team member, Jane, has had issues with her family member’s health for the past month. She is not in a great mood and does not work as effectively as before. What will you do? A reasonable response would be to send Jane a personal message and ask her to schedule a video call for a one-on-one conversation. Ask her how she is feeling and whether the company can help her by making hours flexible or reducing the workload for some time. If Jane does not want to talk about her feelings, emphasize that it is essential for the company that she recovers.

Acknowledging Different Home Environments

Example: You are conducting a team meeting on Zoom call. One of your team members has not locked the door of their room, and her 2 years old daughter runs into the camera view during the call. What will you do? In such situations, it is crucial to stay calm and not to emphasize the fact that the child sabotaged the meeting. Use humor: “Oh, I see we have a little helper on the team today.” Remove the stress with a joke, and if the team member is apologizing too much, say, smiling, “It is great that she joined us!” In this way, you CEO reacted to the same situation . Now the team member will be despising herself less, and the team will know that there is no need to be shy about their home environment.

Flexible Scheduling

Example: Your employees are from India, the UK, and the USA. What kind of schedule will you choose? If you want to be empathic and show understanding towards the needs of your workers, you can consider allowing hours to be asynchronous, like this tech company .

Creating Safe Spaces for Sharing

Example: Embed a “coffee chat” slack channel for your company to mimic the randomness of conversations and news sharing in the office. My boss from the marketing agency holds virtual coffee hours every Friday. You need to share one achievement and one challenge with the team.

Encouraging Health and Wellness

Example: You founded a startup, and all your employees are working remotely. How will you ensure that your employees exercise even if they are sitting all day long? You can become a Heaspace’s partner and send subscriptions to your employees.

Say Good Morning

The idea to start the day with a simple “good morning” activity comes from the desire to make your virtual team connected and more tightly knit. It’s not just a matter of politeness, but of making every team member feel noticed and appreciated at the beginning of each day. In the State of Remote Work report carried out by Buffer, one of the top struggles of the remote workers is a feeling of loneliness. Surely, this kind of activity cannot substitute for human communication, but it can help to ease the feeling of isolation. The result might sound trivial, but it can actually work wonder to the team morale.

How to make it regular

To maintain such an activity, the teams should establish some sort of digital morning greetings ritual. For example, every morning, the remote members of the software development team can greet each other in the general Slack channel. As they exchange some fun emojis and brief updates of their states of mind or personal notes, the leaders of the team observe the staff engagement, and the overall morale of the group . With regular greetings, everyone knows how the others are feeling.

How to adjust for various time zones

For the members of the team who work from various time zones, the greetings can be adjusted to be flexible. An employee of the global marketing firm is encouraged to say “good morning” and post the daily message when he or she will start the workday. This respects every colleague’s time, however centralized systems provide an opportunity for the team leader to leave a response to every message from the employee . The response can be of the general encouraging nature, in this way reinforcing the leader’s omnipresence and attention. Moreover, don’t forget that engagements should be mutual, so post questions with the morning greeting each day.

How to monitor the activity’s effectiveness

Buffer sincerely stated that their morning activity was showing sustainable results for quite some time. Yet, such terminal intervention as measuring the team’s morale one day before the intervention and another day after the greeting system was established might give their team leader some consideration.

Convert In-Person Meetings to Video Meetings

Arguably the most vital transition digital teams had to make was the move from in-person meetings to video meetings. This change is crucial for any remote team attempting to keep communication and the feeling of togetherness intact, while at the same time introducing the vast array of benefits that online meetings can provide.

Getting Prepped

  • Choose the right platform. There is a wealth of tools and applications to be utilized in this domain, so the choice should fall to the teams’ needs, such as the number of participants, the possibility of recording, and additional features, such as dividing teams into separate rooms or sharing the screen. Three popular choices in this domain are Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet.

  • Set some ground rules. If in doubt, just Google available video meeting etiquette that can serve as the team’s primary order of business. Consider rules such as muting the mic when not speaking; using video over the phone whenever possible; and formulating any issue of the agenda in advance.

  • Preparing and distributing an agenda. Participants should receive an agenda no later than 24 hours before the meeting in order to obtain a general idea of what is going to be discussed, as well as potential tasks for pre-meeting preparation or sources for reading.

Execution

  • Consistent scheduling. Hold regular video meetings, such as weekly team reports for any kind of team or weekly project meetings for those involved, and hold them at the same time. It will assist participants in adjusting to the schedule.

  • Using interactive elements. Encouraging interaction through polls, Q&A sessions, brainstorming, and any other method of gathering feedback in real-time.

  • Arranging the technical side of the meeting. Finally, make sure that every member has had a training that will help in smoothly operating the chosen tool. The meeting will not suffer from any unnecessary two-minute pauses to get used to the technology.

After the meeting

  • Active use of video conferencing capabilities. When the meeting draws to a close make sure to summarize all decisions made and issue all of the tasks with deadlines. At the end of a regular, long-term project or case, make sure to hold a brief recap meeting. Guide the participants towards sending the agenda well in advance.

  • Trying new things. The use of Zoom’s breakout room is an ideal example of this, as speaking to the equally large group is, in most cases, very different from speaking with four or five participants. Looking at documents in real-time during a meeting also serves the purpose of increasing productivity by speeding up decision making.

Maintaining and Readjusting

  • From time to time hold these meetings accompanied by a short survey, which investigates how interest in similar meetings is either increasing or decreasing, as well as using similar methods to examine meeting effectiveness. Make sure that information received is used in order to improve upwards processes of the team!

  • For instance, if the survey indicated that people suffer from having back-to-back meetings simply make sure that some of the meetings are shorter. Make sure, this time at a minimum, they always have a as much as a ten-minute break!

Build Camaraderie with a Virtual Water Cooler

As the team members are not in physical proximity in a remote work environment, they can often feel isolated. A virtual water cooler is a solution that allows to generate an environment for careful conversations that are natural for the office space. For example, it might be a chat channel on Slack or Microsoft Teams that is labeled “Virtual Water Cooler.” The members can share their personal news, interesting things they have found on the internet, or even jokes that can bring the team together.

Action Plan to Implement the Virtual Water Cooler Procedure

Ask the IT Department to Choose the Most Familiar Communication Tool . All members of the team should be familiar with it and already use it frequently. Ask the IT department to create a chat channel with the same of “Virtual Water Cooler” or something similar.

Generate Daily Prompts for Conversations . For example, it might be for members to share “What is your favorite home office snack?” as the first Monday of the conversation or the second might be “What is your view right now?”. This will help get the process started and show that the “water cooler” is a fun and open place.

Ensure Regular Developed Participation from the Team Leaders. Encourage the team managers and group team leaders to post in the “water cooler” regularly . They can ask about their teams, react to other team members’ posts, ask follow-up questions, or simply be casual. This will help team members who are more reserved become involved.

Group Building Examples

Music Monday . Every member shares their favorite music. Pet Picture Wednesday . Every member posts their pet’s picture. Home Office Friday . Every team member shares the picture of their home office. Virtual Coffee Break . For example, at 10 AM on Tuesday and Thursday the team members that have time make a coffee and join a 15-minute Zoom break room.

System of Monitoring and Adjusting the Strategies

Track the participation level and ask for feedback during the one-on-one conversation. Ask the members if they feel more in connection with their colleagues, if they enjoy the conversation in the “water cooler,” and if they find it engaging. According to their feedback, adjust the activities or the timeline.

Potential Benefits and Success Stories

Establishing the virtual water cooler can increase the team’s morale and alleviate feelings of loneliness. The relationship structure will also foster a closer space between employees where they can find common interests and form meaningful relationships. It is supported by Gallup’s 2021 study of the social connections of employees; the research shows that employees with “strong social relationships at work are 50 times more likely to report successful business performance” . One success story is a tech startup that noticed a 30% increase in the employee engagement level. To add, the members were also seemingly more supportive and collaborative in work-related projects.

Use Internal Messaging System

The choice of the internal messaging system is central to productive communication. Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Discord provide numerous features depending on the requirements of an organization. The latter can use direct messaging, group chats, document sharing, and integration with other kinds of productivity software. In other words, a large consulting corporation might find Microsoft Teams to be the right choice because of its compatibility with Office 365, while a start-up with a focus on technology may consider Slack since it can connect to hundreds of third-party applications, and it has an informal tone of interaction.

Setting Up for Optimal Use

Organization of Channels: The entire system should be structured, and members of the organization must unmistakably realize what type of information should be posted and shared through the given channel . Therefore, there should be ones for announcements that relate to the whole firm, individual departments or projects, as well as specific kinds of tasks . The main ones that can be relevant include #general for announcements, #marketing for the marketing department, and #help-desk for interactions with the IT team.

Rules and Guidelines: Communication protocols should be established based on the standard communication process . They can include intervals within which an answer should be provided, specific circumstances when notification should be done, and kinds of information with various levels of privacy.

Integration of Messaging into Daily Workflows

Daily Check-Ins: Posting to a special application every morning is a noted habit of many workers who use such kind of messaging software . Many software development teams have a separate special-purpose channel—for example, #daily-standup. Posting in that thread, each developer can include what he or she is going to do to provide an update of the work’s progress and note whether there are potential obstacles. For example, a developer can write: “today, I will address this feature; and there is a problem with that database operation, but I hope it will resolve in several days.”

Real-Time Collaboration: Most software provides all the features that are necessary to discuss something in the documents . For example, during the discussion of graphics in #design-feedback channel, instead of leaving comments in some separate application, it is possible to post directly on the pictures.

Grow Personal Connections with Fun

Most of the time, it is difficult to look for ways to bring a team together when most of the time it is spent away from the office. However, many fun activities can be done to improve team bonding and morale. The Buffer study on the State of Remote Work states that one of the top struggles of remote workers is loneliness, and fostering personal connections is essential for the team .

Implementing Virtual Social Events

  • Virtual Happy Hours

Schedule regular virtual happy hours where the team can relax and talk about anything that is not work-related. Add a little zest by deciding on a dress code or choosing a favorite drink or a virtual background.

  • Online Game Nights

Plan for a monthly online game night using Jackbox Games or Kahoot, among others. Mix the games up by rotating trivia, drawing, and other various competitions. It does not only provide a healthy break from work but also allows the creative and competitive sides of the team to come out.

  • Celebrating Milestones

Remembering special dates, such as birthdays, work anniversaries, or the completion of a project. Email a digital gift card or host a virtual party with a symbolic cake or a video montage congratulating the person.

Interactive Challenges and Competitions

  • Fitness Challenge

Issues a monthly challenge, such as a step counter for the entire month, yoga sessions, or minutes of meditation. These challenges can be easily tracked through a mobile app, and the competition boosts the icebreakers among the teams for casual conversation.

  • Photo and Video Contests

Challenge the members to submit a picture or a video of their home offices, their pet, exercise sessions, or hobbies. The winner of the Best Home Office Setup, for example, can get a price, and new ideas would be discovered to buy.

Regular Informal Check-ins

  • Coffee Breaks with Random Pairs

Implement a ‘Virtual Coffee Pairing’ where the team is systematically paired by twos weekly to have a coffee chat. This is especially useful for larger teams where not everyone talks and works together on a daily basis.

Feedback and Adaptation

  • Collect feedback after every event to see what works best for the team and what does not. Use quick polls or anonymous surveys to gather insights and suggestions. This will ensure that the activities remain fun, inclusive, and aligned with the desires of the team.

  • Success Stories

A tech company noticed a 40% increase in job satisfaction among all employees who took part in a series of bi-weekly virtual escape rooms. They mentioned that the activity helped break the daily monotony and brought them closer to their colleagues.

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