One of the biggest issues in all teams—virtual and not—is communication. While this issue is prevalent in all teams, it can seem that the problem is exacerbated in virtual teams.
Why is communication in remote teams especially challenging?
1. There are few (or no) existing opportunities for informal connections, which can be a good space for people to establish rapport and confirm understanding of situations or expectations.
2. A lot of virtual communication takes place with email or chat—which means messages are often misinterpreted. Not everyone is great at conveying or reading accurate tone when writing.
3. If your work day does not include collaboration, you might be working on your own for most of the day. You might ride the momentum of your work bubble, and not stop to clarify or confirm understanding of expectations.
No matter the reason for your team’s challenges, there are some concrete steps that you can take to improve how your team communicates.
Easy Ways to Improve Communication
Match Channels with Specific Purposes
Email, chat, phone… we have so many ways to communicate that it can seem overwhelming. By assigning each channel with very specific purposes (e.g. use the phone when there is a problem in a certain department) you can eliminate confusion over who is supposed to say what, where, and when.
Maximize the Tools You Have
This means using a task management or project management tool to manage tasks instead of relying on email to make sure people know their responsibilities and deliverables. Slack and other messaging tools are fabulous for everyday communication, including asking clarifying questions. Keeping employee handbooks or manuals and other important department-wide or company-wide information on Google Docs is a way to ensure that everyone has access the most up-to-date information available.
Spend some time doing research on the functionalities of the tools that you use and case studies for how others have used them to improve communication.
Check In Regularly
Schedule time that is specifically devoted to checking in on team progress and spirit. Having this time slotted on the calendar allows everyone involved to prepare for those check-ins and fosters healthy communication practices.
Other Resources to improve your team’s communication: