This article was originally published on  29/04/2020

Companies require effective workplace communication, especially in the digital age, as many employees work hybrid or remotely. In this article, Capterra explains how to create a successful communication strategy, especially when managing remote teams.

Header image with remote staff making effective workplace communication 

Effective workplace communication is the foundation of any company and is crucial for team members who do not meet frequently. In an office environment, colleagues often engage in meetings or hold brainstorming sessions at the coffee machine or their coworker’s desks. But how can employees build these relationships if they are in a different location?

When it comes to managing remote teams, some of the biggest concerns for team leaders may include a lack of employee productivity and difficulties with communication. But the opportunity to work remotely was made possible due to the global health crisis and the rise of digitisation, which saw companies adopt technologies such as cloud computing and collaboration tools.

In this article, Capterra outlines the best practices for companies to ensure they have an effective communication strategy in place for remote workers. 

Types of communication styles in the workplace 

People have different communication styles in the workplace, which play a key role in the company culture. Whilst you can’t change how someone interacts, you can be aware of the way in which they communicate. Here are the four most common communication styles:

  • Assertive communicators: The assertive style is not overpowering but is considered the most effective. These individuals are calm and respectful but can firmly make their requirements known. They can hold good eye contact and have a clear voice. 
  • Passive communicators: Passive communicators are very quiet and tend not to assert themselves, and are indecisive. But are often easy to get along with. They tend to lack eye contact and let others lead and dominate the conversation. 
  • Aggressive communicators: Often, their traits include interrupting others, being arrogant, condescending or opportunistic. These individuals dominate the conversation, making intense eye contact and gestures like crossed arms. 
  • Passive-aggressive communicators: These individuals appear passive, but underneath the surface, they are angry and upset. Signs of a passive-aggressive communicator include using sarcasm, showing denials and providing silent treatment.

Managing people with different communication styles is nothing new for team leaders, but in the hybrid and remote world, effective communication is more important than ever. So what are the best practices for an organisation’s communication strategy? 

10 effective workplace communication tips for managers of remote teams

The following are tips for companies looking to improve their communication strategies:

1. Centralise how objectives and deadlines are communicated

Normally, at the beginning of a project, a team of people will gather in a meeting room to discuss the desired end result. This is an important first step because it brings everyone onto the same page. With a remote workforce, this shouldn’t be any different. Small projects, goals and objectives should always include a detailed brief.

Project leaders should perfect the level of detail they use to communicate action points to avoid misinterpretation. Project management tools and collaboration software work well to centralise ad hoc and ongoing work activities. They generally operate on a project or task basis, allowing users to include an objective and brief. Additionally, managers can map out the individual steps required for bigger projects. 

2. Clearly explain collaboration processes 

The pandemic saw many workers transition from an office environment into a hybrid or remote structure and, coupled with the rise in digitisation, a lot of processes changed. Companies had to re-streamline processes to suit the digital environment. However, too many digital messages and instructions are a problem in itself. Instead, why not create simple visual representations? 

Flow diagrams and PDF presentations work well for this. Using graphic design software, managers can outline all the variables included in a task or project. Similarly, visual corporate structures are a quick way for employees to understand the relevant points of contact.

3. Schedule progress updates

With everyone working on individual tasks, even within the same project, it can be easy in a remote setting to lose track of each other. For fast-paced teams, a daily 15-minute stand-up is a proven way to align team members. Otherwise, an hour every week may be enough. 

Within these meetings, team members should give their colleagues an update on progress and provide an overview of upcoming tasks. It’s also a good opportunity to flag challenges or potential obstacles to discuss as a group. Video conferencing software can help you invite remote team members to pitch ideas, offer feedback on results, and create presentations to celebrate key wins.

4. Reduce unnecessary meetings and calls

If the team can do without a particular meeting, mostly because the benefit is uncertain and there is no real agenda, it should be removed from the team’s schedule. Having an in-person meeting or sending a message via email may be more effective than an hour-long call with remote attendees. 

Holding a meeting once a month instead of weekly (where possible) can reduce video conferencing fatigue and burnout, allow more time for work and save on wasted time. To understand how employees feel about meetings, managers can send email surveys to collect feedback.

5. Remain communicative and don’t avoid difficult conversations 

Having difficult conversations enables companies to bring any issues to the surface and help address them. Managers should be able to hold these discussions both in person or online with remote employees. Good communication can stop problems from arising in the first place, especially if you are in regular contact with team members. 

It is important to establish trust with employees and not rush conversations. Managers should take time to get facts straight and encourage workers to process the situation and their emotions. Employee engagement software can help team leads streamline communication, recording notes on past conversations, especially during times of uncertainty and change within the organisation. 

6. Train employees to give feedback

Constructive feedback is a crucial part of effective communication with remote employees to help improve certain things. Encouraging employees to give feedback sooner rather than later is important as the individual may easily forget details of the situation or may have moved on to something else.

It is also valuable to give feedback to remote employees without waiting until their end-of-year performance review. The idea is to give regular, small pieces of advice to staff members, giving them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and improve. 

7. Check in with employees regularly

It’s important to check in on the well-being of your team. With so many conversations happening digitally, managers should book quality face-to-face time with their individual team members. Video conferencing software works well for employee-manager catch-ups. It acts as a virtual room for employees to discuss their well-being and for managers to practice active listening. 

It is also vital to regularly communicate and monitor the actions of remote employees, aiming to do so without crushing employee morale. This can help companies to understand how employees are spending their time and spot issues with performance. But it can also highlight the strengths and positive capabilities of workers.

8. Encourage cross-departmental virtual collaborations 

Enabling different departments to come together for virtual collaborations means employees can learn from each other and share their perspectives and expertise. Cross-departmental projects are a great way for employees to learn from one another and improve remote work relationships within the company. 

A previous survey from Capterra found that remote employees attach less importance to work friendships. Through project collaborations, employees from different departments can make new friends in the workplace. They can also feel seen within the company despite working from a different location from their colleagues. 

9. Encourage proactiveness and ownership 

Encouraging employees to be proactive in pitching new ideas or strategies to management or taking ownership of a team task has several benefits. This includes increased employee productivity and efficiency, but it also helps the remote worker to have positive exposure within the organisation.  

10. Prevent digital message bombarding

Dealing with too many digital messages may be an issue for remote staff as they may overload messaging channels. It’s important when operating remotely to set new guidelines for communication norms. This should cover the mediums best suited to specific purposes.

Additionally, many people’s home spaces will be doubling up as home offices, which can make switching off more of a challenge. Creating a rule where digital messaging is banned outside of business hours will encourage staff to take time for themselves. 

Removing the barriers to effective workplace communication

Despite most Australians having gone back to work solely from the office post-pandemic, remote work still remains an option for some people. There are lots of benefits to be had from this setup, but good communication is the foundation for a productive remote workforce.

Considering individual communication styles can also help to build trust and connection with remote team members and avoid the frustrations of miscommunication. Taking the time to figure out the most effective communication policies for your business now will lead to healthier, happier employees and a more functional business.

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