Effective communication is key to the success of any organization, but it’s especially important for those that are geographically dispersed. Unlike in traditional business environments, virtual teams face unique communication challenges such as the lack of check-ins and face-to-face meetings for team-building.
While it’s true that remote workers are generally more satisfied with their jobs, keeping them motivated and productive can be challenging when you’re not standing next to them. But by using the right tools and having a good strategy in place, you can make communication just as effective as it would be with a centralized team.
Consider the following 5 tips for improving communication and efficiency in your remote team.
Formulate a Communication Strategy
When it comes to communication, you cannot simply take it as it comes; it needs to be driven by a plan. There should be a set communication schedule for everyone to follow. This can include weekly meetings for checking in on projects, challenges and successes. This is also a great time for team building and helping everyone get to know each other.
You should also schedule regular one-on-one meetings to get a read on employee satisfaction and work on project-related issues. Be sure to lay out your expectations when it comes to when and how employees should respond to messages. Open and honest communication is key, and goals should be clearly laid out from the get-go.
Leverage the Right Tools
The tools your team uses to communicate are the backbone of your operation. They should be reliable, efficient and easy to use. Cloud-based apps like Slack are a great option for general communication, while the likes of Asana, Box, and Trello are useful for discussions about a particular project.
There are some other tools that can be useful for specific purposes. For instance, Sococo helps to build trust by providing a “map” that looks like a floor plan of an office. When an employee logs in and begins working, they’re visible as a “head” in the workplace that everyone can see to know who’s online.
Track Measures of Productivity
Virtual environments make it difficult to track exactly what each team member is working on and for how long. Knowing what your team is up to can help you find where improvements can be made. There are many ways to do this. For instance, you can make use of project management software with built-in analytics tools.
If you use a calendar to track projects and employee work hours, a tool such as TimeTackle will help you get more organized by exporting calendar data to Excel or another platform where you can analyze it. Don’t forget to reward team members who improve their performance, and provide incentives to further motivate them.
Address Time Zone Issues
It may seem minor, but a great deal of hassle and frustration can be eliminated by addressing any time zone issues upfront. Be sure to confirm where members are before scheduling projects and meetings. This way, everyone can work at a time that’s most conducive to their productivity. An easy way to do this would be to use a time zone conversion app.
Build Relationships with Video Calls
Face-to-face meetings are a powerful way to build relationships with your team. When they’re dispersed around the world, video calls are the best way to do this, helping to build structure and accountability. That said, it works better for smaller teams and doesn’t need to be the only way to build relationships.
A happy and motivated team that knows how to communicate is bound to succeed. Take the time to foster this and you’ll quickly notice the benefits.
Samantha Acuna is a writer based in San Francisco, CA. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, and Yahoo Small Business.