How to Communicate Effectively with a Remote Team

Communication can cause complications and misunderstandings at the best of times so when you remove the verbal cues, body language and intonation that comes with face to face communication, things can get tricky.

Whether you're on the hunt for a remote job or leading a new remote team, here are some practical tips to help you master your communication skills in a remote working world.

Designate tools for specific communication

Without the ability to turn to your colleague and ask a question or relay information there and then, it can be difficult to determine the best way to communicate that same information to them. Is it a conversation for Slack? Picking up the phone? Or is something that calls for a formal email?

With too many tools, there can be too many places for people to comment and relay information to one another. With that, you run the risk of important messages being missed or people feeling overwhelmed and bombarded.

Clarify a structured communications flow with your team. For example, agree to use Slack for questions and side conversations, keep email for formal requests or action related items and project management tools exclusively for status updates. Find a system that works for your team and go from there.

Organise regular check ins

If you're used to working in an office with a lot of hustle and bustle, constant chatter about projects, what's coming up, what's close to completion, you may initially struggle with feeling out of the loop when switching to remote working. A lot can change in a short space of time so make time for regular check ins with team members and ensure everyone who needs to know, is kept up to date with different projects. Remote working can be isolating so balance formal check ins with the opportunity to go through work, ideas and general catching up, allowing the opportunity for ad-hoc calls if anyone wants to run through something specific.

Set clear deadlines and expectations

The extremes of working remotely range from immense distraction and procrastination to overworking and risking burnout. The simple solution is clear communication. Set deadlines to avoid possible distractions (or overworking) and maintain communication throughout as a means of accountability and support.

Clarify other expectations such as defined working hours, encouraging your team to be easily reached during those times and logging off when those hours wrap for the day.

Know your audience

Miscommunication will inevitable arise, remote team or not. When it does, it can be tempting to place the blame on the other person. Participating in that blame game leads anywhere but the solution. Instead, step back and review before pressing send. Be mindful of how it might be received and interpreted.

Ask yourself:

Do you need to adapt your communication to the person you're speaking to?

When is your message being delivered?

Do you need to clarify or further summarize any elements?

Lastly, always consider the medium of your message and how it's being delivered. What's the easiest way to relay this information and avoid miscommunication?