Work Remotely? Do These 4 Things For Better Team Communication

by | July 10, 2014

Your CEO is in New York, you’re based in Wichita, one of your employees just moved to San Diego, and the head of engineering working from Turkey for a month – oh boy. A few years ago this logistical nightmare meant it was impossible for cross-team projects to progress without a drop in productivity. Technology has gotten us to a point where, with the right tools and discipline productivity is no longer constrained by proximity of team members.

Get on a single messaging platform

Everyone has their own personal preference on instant messaging services. It might be Hangouts, Skype, Yahoo, or Lync – each has their own pros and cons. Luckily for you that doesn’t matter. The most important part is that you and your entire team are on the same instant messaging platform. Why? Visibility. With everyone on the same platform figuring out if someone is online or not becomes a passive act. No more emailing half your team to figure out all of the employee’s handles.

Have clear backup communication channels

A huge part of why people frown down on remote work is a fear of not being able to contact a person if something goes wrong and immediate assistance is needed. While the likelihood of a real emergency happening is slim certain precautions can and should be taken just in case. Keeping a shared roster of people’s backup channels is a must. This should include at least 2 of the following for every team member: mobile phone, home phone, office line, personal email, and backup contact. Should something go awry there is no reason why an emergency decision can’t be made ASAP.

Rethink timezones

You may have previously thought it’s impossible to work productively with a 10+ hour time difference between you. Not true. It simply takes a shift in working style. Having a culture that accepts remote work puts your employees in a different mindset. They know it’s not the norm to be able to combine personal trips with business hours. They’ll likely make changes to their working style to align working schedules with the majority of the team. It gives them the opportunity to enjoy their time abroad saving the late night or early morning hours for getting work done. You’ll be surprised at how little disruption is experienced.

Replace conference calls with video chats

We all know how conference calls really function: full of distractions, half listening, and infamous multitasking. One huge contributor to this is that we can’t actually see anyone else on the call. It causes us to tune out and give just enough attention that if we need to speak we’re able to say something related. How is this fixed? Video. Video calls add another layer of the human element back to calls, one that mimics actual face-to-face conversations. Have at least one video meeting a week and compare it to your other calls – you’ll probably find it to be a lot more productive.