6 Communication Mistakes with Remote Teams and How to Avoid Them

Remote work is becoming increasingly popular for a myriad of good reasons. Yes, the unfortunate Coronavirus situation has made it a necessity for most companies, but the undisputed benefits have been contributing to its rise long before the pandemic occurred. 

Many have embraced the privilege of not having to go to the office every morning and happily manage their own time and responsibilities wherever they choose. Remote employees travel the world while still performing efficiently, relax at home without a stifling dress code or the arduous commute to their place of employment. However, a remote team still requires strong management, open communication and the feeling they are still part of a thriving group. That said, let’s take a look at some common mistakes you’d be advised to avoid in order to keep your team at the top of their game.  

Do not neglect the importance of casual conversation 

It’s easy to take casual conversation for granted, like chatting spontaneously about the weather or having lunch with your colleague. However trivial these may seem, they bring a team closer together. The virtual world, on the other hand, does not allow for such interaction among distributed teams, but this human touch still remains just as important. Failing to create the environment welcoming casual chit-chat will definitely leave a scar on your team’s performance.

Fortunately, quality online communication channels are just what the doctor ordered. Schedule one-to-one meetings at the beginning of which you can take genuine interest in how your employees are doing – both personally and professionally. An end-of-week happy hour is a great opportunity for your team to hop online and catch up with each other. Provide a “virtual watercooler” i.e. an informal chat channel and let your team converse throughout the day. 

Be clear enough 

Always keep in mind that your team needs to know what to do and how to do it at all times as well as what your expectations are. It often happens that managers have a crystal-clear idea of what they need, but they fail to communicate it in the way the team can grasp. Clarity, however, does not mean providing overwhelming details and repetition. 

Be concise. Once you explain the task at hand, ask your employees to repeat the process in their own words. After everyone is clear on what to do, explain how you want the task to be completed, when it should be done and through which channels. Allocate some time for possible questions along the way and do inquire how the project is coming along. 

Avoid strictly digital communication

First of all, digital does not always mean effective. It’s easy to manage virtual teams this way, but ask yourself – are there any side effects that may become visible in the long run? Communication in its entirety is comprised of many factors, some of which texts, emails and conference calls can never compensate for. The written or spoken word without the visual aspect is open to interpretation which might not be what you envisioned. Without body language to make it complete, misinterpretations of your message may affect engagement, innovation and cause unnecessary anxiety. 

Regular facetime, either on video or in person will make the conversation equation complete. Not only is face-to-face communication more personal, but it will also allow you to see what’s happening with your remote team members, how they’re getting on, and what they need to prosper. 

Don’t rush through your meetings

Virtual meetings do have their advantages, yet they lack the comfort of a meeting held in-person. While you might be thinking that a presentation-like meeting when you efficiently bring out all the facts in a form of a monologue saves time, in your haste you’re forgetting that good ideas or possible project pitfalls may be left unsaid just because you never provided the opportunity for your team to speak up. 

If you feel you’re not getting the necessary feedback, it might be because you haven’t given your team enough space. Pause regularly and give your coworkers a chance. Call on everyone you think would have valuable input and don’t rush on once you ask “does anyone have something to add?”. Silence doesn’t always mean approval; it’s often just people processing and collecting their thoughts. 

Enable equal contribution

Each and every one of your employees should be given the chance to contribute equally to the project in question. The aforementioned hasty meetings, irregular contact and partial interest all lead to weak performance. 

Instead, take a genuine interest in your teams’ performance in detail. Ask them to elaborate on their ideas during meetings, to be concise, and not to hesitate. Encourage them to take notes and consult both among themselves and with you on pressing matters. Schedule a regular “input session” either online or by text and further develop ideas in meetings. Brainstorm together for the best possible results. 

Set your standards

And stick to them. Sending your team mixed messages is just not going to work. For instance, if you do not tolerate tardiness in meetings and then show up 15 minutes late or support a healthy work-life balance and then send emails after hours – you’re doing it wrong. 

You are your team’s role model. Set clear standards on what is and what’s not acceptable. They will never believe in a good work-life balance if you don’t set an example of it. Live by the values you want to inspire and you’ll witness more efficiency, more respect, and most importantly more satisfaction. 

Communication is crucial, especially when it comes to remote teams. If you wish to keep your employees happy and retain top talent, do everything in your power to make them feel they are making a valuable contribution, instead of being just another cog in the corporate machine. 

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