As our lives and businesses become more interconnected, technology has enabled us to work remotely, which has both its rewards and challenges. One of the greatest challenges is keeping open channels of communication with everyone on your team when you’re not able to communicate face-to-face on a daily basis. With remote teams becoming a new reality for many organizations, it’s important for managers to learn how to encourage effective communication among their team members in this new environment. In this blog post, we will explore why effective communication is so important for successful remote teams and share strategies that managers can use to promote better collaboration and engagement among their employees.
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3 important reasons to encourage communication among team members
A team is only as good as its communication skills. This is particularly important with a remote team. I don’t have to tell you that getting your point across via email or text message can be a lot harder than doing it in person. Working on communication skills is one of the best things you can do for your team and your business. Here’s why.
Faster completion of work
Communicating effectively means there’s less back and forth and the work gets done faster. It also gets done right and the way you need it. And it starts with you. Make sure you are clear on the scope of the project and who is responsible for what part. Don’t forget about deadlines. Let your team know what needs to be done and when to make sure everything progresses smoothly.
Need not play the role of an intermediary
How much time and mental energy do you spend each day being the “go-between” for different members of your team? I bet it’s a lot more than you think. Encouraging your team members to talk to each other instead of going through you for everything will not only save you a lot of time but also keeps you from having to keep mental tabs on everything that’s going on.
You don’t need to be aware of every single step and every single little problem that creeps up. In the end, all you really need to be concerned about is getting the end product. Yes, you want to know if there are serious issues, or if something will cause a delay that might affect a launch, but you don’t need to know about all the little stuff that can be ironed out by your team.
Team strength increases
Letting your team communicate with each other and figure stuff out without having you involved will also strengthen it overall. It will build the confidence of each team member and over time, they will learn new skills as they talk to each other. All of this will of course also lead to a team that works better together and gets stuff done. And that’s the big end goal, isn’t it?
What is the “Water Cooler Effect”?
The “water cooler effect” comes with waiting in line at the coffee machine or sharing lunch with co-workers where information and news spread quickly through information channels. That is, through these information channels like conversations at lunch or coffee break. This encourages creative problem-solving and collaboration between teams. It results in higher job satisfaction and increased productivity.
It may seem a little counterintuitive at first, but when you dig a little deeper it starts to make sense. If we promote a work culture where employees get to know each other and form a “tribe”, they will be happier and have more fun at work. And what happens when you’re happy? You enjoy what you’re doing, you look forward to coming to work (or at least you aren’t dreading it) and in turn, you work faster and you produce better work.
Now, in an era of globalization and digital transformation, more modern workplaces are embracing the idea of remote work. Going remote has been shown to have various benefits for both employers and employees; from lower costs and increased productivity on the employer side to increased freedom and flexibility for employees themselves. But while working remotely can be a great benefit, it also introduces a unique challenge – how do you recreate the social environment which is so essential to a productive office culture?
How can the “Water Cooler Effect” be initiated in an Online Environment?
In a regular office environment this can be done with an inviting break room and more frequent coffee breaks, but how do we translate that in a remote workplace? We do it with a combination of utilizing technology and leading by example. Here’s what I mean:
Stay connected with your remote team wherever you may be! Leverage the power of technology from emails to conference calls and video conferencing for efficient communication. Take full advantage of what’s already at your fingertips, allowing everyone to stay on track with their individual tasks in the most convenient way possible.
Utilize technology from email and instant messages to conference calls and video conferencing to make connections with your remote team. Chances are you already have most of what you need in place for your regular workflow.
Start leading by example and showing your team that it’s ok to chit-chat during remote team meetings, share personal stories in emails, and just plain get to know each other. You can speed up the process by implementing some remote team-building exercises or just start sharing some personal things about yourself.
Start a team meeting by sharing what you did over the weekend with the family and asking your team members about their weekend. Include a picture of your 5-year-old riding her bike in a memo to your team. You get the idea.
To build team morale, step back and give your staff a chance to bond without you. Let them share more intimately by arriving late for video conferences or not demanding that every email include yourself as copied. This will create an atmosphere of trust since they won’t worry about any judgment from their supervisor – plus it’ll provide the opportunity for fun anecdotes between colleagues!
Then sit back and start to watch how the team dynamic changes. Strangers will start to become acquaintances and then friends and the whole culture of your remote team will change for the better. And with it, it will become easier to keep good people on the team. Productivity will go up as well as your team gains experience and stays happy working for and with you.
How to introduce a new team member to your remote team?
If you’re already working with an established team, it can be a bit of a challenge to introduce someone new to the “tribe”. Here are a few tips to make the transition smoother and avoid disruption in the team dynamic.
Keep the current team informed about hiring
With the business world continuously growing and evolving, it’s essential to stay one step ahead. Start early when planning for new team members by communicating with your current staff about any upcoming or potential changes that may require extra help. Maybe there are some new technical challenges coming up that need an expert touch. Maybe the business is growing and everyone could use the extra help. Maybe it’s something you’ve been taking care of that you’d like to hand off to a new person.
Not only will it help avoid negative feelings toward the new person by letting your team know what’s going on, but there’s also a pretty good chance that they have some great suggestions about who to hire.
Remote assistants and independent contractors in the online business world are often well-connected with others in their field and maybe your best source for finding just the right person to add to your team.
Introduce the new team member with qualifications and responsibilities
Once you hire the right addition to your team, take the time to introduce him or her. Set up a team meeting – ideally via video conferencing and introduce the new person. Mention his or her qualification and why you hired this person. It is also helpful to share what exactly the responsibilities and tasks of the new hire are.
Don’t hesitate to make it personal
Your current team already has a good working relationship with you and each other. They know each other personally and it’s time for the new guy to catch up. During this first introductory meeting, have everyone introduce themselves, and what they do in the business or on the team. Then introduce the new person, share his or her new role on the team and ask him or her to share a little about themselves, their work background, and a little something personal.
Make it easy for your team to communicate and encourage them to talk to each other, help each other and get to know each other on a more personal level as well. A team that communicates well will become more productive and able to take more tasks off your hands – allowing you to focus on exploring new ideas and growing the business.
It is helpful to let the new hire know how this introduction will go ahead of time and give him or her a chance to come up with what they want to share. Wrap it up by asking the team to welcome the new member. You may also want to assign one current team member as a first go-to contact with questions and concerns unless you want to take on that role yourself.
While there are challenges that come along with managing a remote team, there are also many benefits. Encouraging communication among team members is one way to overcome some of the challenges and take advantage of the benefits of having a remote team. When everyone is on the same page, working towards common goals, and supporting each other, it’s easier to achieve success. Do you encourage communication among your team members? What techniques have you found to be effective? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Skillculture has a blog world where there is content relating to personality development, customer relationship management, and also relating to remote work like “Foolproof rules of Remote team“.
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