Collaboration, Productivity Updated on: 16 January 2020

Why Communication Is the Greatest Challenge for Remote Teams

Remote Worker

Highlights

We all understand the critical role communication plays in business success. For employees, open dialogue directly correlates to overall happiness at work—which is critical during a time when 80% of workers feel stressed due to ineffective communication. Employers, conversely, enjoy the boosts to collaboration, engagement and innovation that great communication fosters in the workplace.

Businesses today are particularly interested in the relationship between remote work and its potential impact on communication. Although remote work yields a number of advantages for business and employees alike—such as higher productivity and an improved work-life balance—the lack of opportunities to speak in person could translate to higher levels of miscommunication and errors of omission.

If your business offers full- or part-time remote opportunities, be aware of the obstacles your off-site employees might encounter, as they can become significant barriers to effective communication.

Challenge #1: Too Much—Or Too Little—Communication

Mastering the perfect level of dialogue between you and your remote teams will help them stay in-the-loop without becoming overwhelmed—although this perfect balance is not as easy to accomplish as you might think. It’s the reason why over 80% of remote workers believe that their employers are inconsistent with communication while simultaneously feeling overwhelmed by emails.

If your communication with your remote workforce is infrequent or unpredictable, you might consider creating regular, scheduled opportunities every day to touch base with them. Many organizations start their day with a team huddle, which is a video meeting lasting only a few minutes. This gives those working outside of the office the opportunity to collaborate with their on-site team members, update their leaders on current objectives and—most importantly— humanize what can otherwise be a day absent of social interaction.

Alternatively, you should find opportunities to omit high-volume communication tactics that complicate more than they inform. The primary culprit of over-communicating in the workspace is emailing. Think about your own company’s habits forwarding lengthy threads, CC’ing irrelevant parties and understanding back-and-forths as multiple personalities vie to be the loudest. For one-off questions and informal conversations, your remote teams may appreciate a chat messaging platform to replace the often clunky, overbearing delivery of email.

Challenge #2: Communication Technology

The vast majority of telecommuters rely on technology to communicate internally. 75% of remote workers agree that technology helps them develop personal connections with their coworkers and is an essential component for hosting successful virtual meetings. The challenge facing remote teams today, therefore, is not whether you should use technology but how you should make the best use of its services.

Today, an oversaturation of remote communication technology exists as companies overcompensate for the lack of in-person conversations. This makes it vital for businesses to research each tech solution before undergoing digital transformation and finalizing their communication tools stack. Here are a few of the most emerging tools to jumpstart your research:

  • Digital workspace platforms are a collection of digital tools and environments that businesses use to connect their on- and off-site resources, giving you a single workspace for connecting and simplifying your communication tech.
  • An online whiteboarding tool is a piece of visual collaboration technology that works in real-time and asynchronously to connect employees in multiple time zones and locations who are collaborating on the same projects.
  • Voice over IP technology is a tool that allows its users to make voice calls through the internet, which enables remote teams to make business phone calls through laptops and other portable devices.
  • Cloud-powered intranets are private, online networks for storing and accessing vital company information, which remote employees can use to view all types of work-related documents and communications—from updates on benefits packages to tutorials on using a new tool.

Challenge #3: Interpreting Body Language

The way that we carry ourselves presents an immeasurable amount of context and nuance to others as they interpret what we are saying. Unfortunately, body language doesn’t translate into emails, chats or calls. And since an overwhelming 93% of human communication is nonverbal, you might find that your virtual coworkers misunderstand or miscommunicate more often than their contemporaries working in the office.

The solution is to adopt what some call “digital body language,” or translating the emotional meaning that body language provides into virtual alternatives. Good virtual body language means speaking clearly and often on calls, turning on your camera during video conferencing and scheduling time for informal chats throughout the week.

When it comes to written dialogue like chats or email, you can practice healthy digital body language by becoming more conscious of the tone and delivery of your messages. So often, curtness comes across as impatience or anger; but at the same time, over-punctuating with exclamations and capitalization could be read as unprofessional.

Fortunately, today’s businesses have a simple solution for ensuring that the tone and sentiment behind employee messages aren’t lost. Emojis, GIFs and other visual cues can help the receiver understand the emotional nuance of your conversation. Where words alone fail, emojis can convey a broad spectrum of simple and complex feelings. And with 62% of people at work saying that emojis can help them feel closer to their coworkers, ending your messages with a smiley face could be a simple solution to your disjointed team of remoters.

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