Remote Teams: Keeping In Touch With Your Team Despite The Distance
The pandemic has changed the way a lot of employees work around the world. Zoom meetings, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams became the #NewNormal. From everyday face-to-face meetings, team lunches, coffee breaks, gossip, and other personal interactions to jumping on multiple virtual conferences and webinars. Different companies have also shifted their strategies in brand marketing to accommodate the changing demands of the consumers.
Working remotely both has its pros and cons. Some benefits may include greater employee autonomy since they operate under minimal supervision, less operational costs, no travel time (hence, no excuse to be late!), with some companies allowing a more flexible working schedule. However, it has also posed different challenges, especially when working in groups. Distractions at home, miscommunication, difficulties distinguishing work from rest, time-zone differences, low productivity, and the feeling of social isolation, to name a few.
If not appropriately addressed, these factors may result in low productivity and output and may even cost your employees’ physical and mental health. As for someone who manages a team, it’s a huge responsibility to look out for everyone and ensure that no employee gets left behind.
Here are some tips on how to effectively communicate with your team remotely:
- Set a fixed schedule for team meetings
Schedule at least one fixed day of the week that you get to meet virtually altogether as a team. If there is an announcement, update, or concern, it’s easier to raise them to everyone’s attention.
Blocking a specific time and day enables everyone to prepare for their plans ahead. Ensure to dedicate at least a few extra minutes to catch up or talk about non-work-related stuff.
- Over-communicate wisely
Overcommunication does not mean sending emails outside work hours or calling in the middle of the night. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a co-worker (or your boss) if something’s unclear. If you have concerns, it would be a good idea to ask first instead of making assumptions. Employees from a face-to-face work setting can be prone to miscommunication due to lapses in writing skills, unfamiliarity with tools, and having to go through a channel of communication instead of a direct one. Try to be as detailed and concise in words. Remember, your emotions and gestures may not be perceived by other ends, primarily through emails.
- Use collaboration and productivity tools
When working remotely, every employee must have a clear understanding of the tasks and expectations from them. To perform efficiently, each one must have access to the resources they need to produce quality output. Essential tools for remote collaboration enable everyone to communicate effectively and participate in a project while seeing the updates made by their co-workers in real-time.
- Track attendance
For team leaders and managers, tracking your team’s attendance can give you an insight into what time they start and end work. It may serve as a basis for scheduling a strategic time for team meetings. Having a fixed schedule lets other team members know when is the best time to contact you and when not to. Time-tracking systems can help monitor attendance or when employees go on leave.
- Set virtual team-building activities
Team-building activities aim to improve communication, hone problem-solving skills, and solidify team culture. Moreover, it encourages teamwork and trust among colleagues, which may enhance the feeling of belongingness. The activities can be anything from virtual games, challenges to costume parties!
- Recognize excellence
Praising an employee’s achievement is one way of showing them the importance of their contribution. Since it’s easier to slack off when no one is watching, it’s an affirmation that their efforts are appreciated, despite not being seen. Moreover, it fosters a sense of belongingness within the organization. It reminds them to continue doing well with the hopes of inspiring other members of the team to step up as well!
- Reach out to your team members or co-workers individually
Not meeting face-to-face can be a struggle for some, especially for people whose co-workers are also friends. Human beings are social animals. It’s in our nature to socialize and be in the company of other people. Perhaps a co-worker may be struggling in their personal life or just needs someone to talk to, or, if you’re the team leader, you may have an employee who’s too shy to voice out their concerns during team meetings. During these difficult times, a simple gesture of reaching out and asking how they’re doing can go a long way.
This pandemic pushed us to rethink a new approach to how we work. Although it has its fair share of pros and cons, it allowed us somehow to have a sense of normalcy amidst the uncertainties. It enabled us to continue with our lives and, to some, opened new opportunities. The key to successful communication is to harness technology to our advantage. Lastly, may we continue to look out for each other work-related or not.