The best place to start when refreshing and refining your remote work communication strategies is with your expectations.
Start with this question:
How should team members communicate with one another, how often should they check in, and what methods should they use?
The answers you come up with to this three-part question should provide the foundation for your communication guidelines. You can then write up those guidelines in a formal document and share it with employees and new hires as part of the onboarding process.
By clarifying your expectations surrounding communication, you can get everyone on the same page, even if you’re working remotely with a scattered workforce.
If your workforce is global, or at least not centralized in one location, be sure to make it clear in your guidelines how you’ll communicate across time zones. Usually, some form of asynchronous communication, using tools like Loom and Slack, is the best way to get around the obstacle of time differences and different work schedules.
You can then employ the best software for employee monitoring as a form of remote performance management to evaluate the impact using asynchronous communication tools has on performance levels.
Monitoring work performance through different types of employee monitoring, such as custom screenshot intervals and monitoring computer and app activity, can help you introduce communication tools based on how your team members currently collaborate.
Mix up Communication Methods
An effective communication strategy should include multiple methods of staying connected.
If you rely on one way of communicating, such as Slack, the disruption to productivity can be huge if the app experiences issues. Plus, sticking to just one form of communication limits the ways you can communicate information, which can slow things down.
In an ideal world, you would have a balance of synchronous and asynchronous communication methods and tools in your remote work environment.
Synchronous communication lets you talk to team members in real time, which is useful for:
- High-context explanations
- Lengthy briefings
- Fielding questions from team members
Examples of synchronous communication tools include:
- Video Conferencing - Jump on a call with your team for project briefings or to update coworkers on changing circumstances while inviting questions.
- Instant Messaging - Chat in real-time with coworkers or customers using instant messaging tools for fast responses and quick problem resolution.
Whereas asynchronous communication doesn’t require the recipient to respond straight away, which can be helpful for:
- Coordinating on projects
- Reaching team members in different time zones
- Making different work schedules compatible
Examples of asynchronous communication tools include:
- Video Recordings - Record videos with software solutions like Loom that team members can watch on their own time, accommodating different work schedules and time zones.
- Project Management Chat - Use project management solutions to label tasks, tag team members, and comment on relevant information for getting the project done.
With a varied approach to communication, you can safeguard yourself against disruption, and cater to various communication styles, too, as every employee will have their own preferences.
Create Systems to Store and Share Information
On top of the methods, tools, and systems you use to communicate, you also need to factor in how you’ll store and share information.
Effective communication often relies on having all the facts and files on hand. If every time an employee has to provide an update to their manager, they have to first trawl through outdated archives to dig up relevant files, there’s an unnecessary loss of time.
So how can you store and share information easily in a remote work environment?
Systematize your File Storage
In a remote work environment, you’ll need to replace all the file cabinets, paper folders, and other physical paperwork archives you’d expect to find in an office.
There are two ways you can do this:
- Use a Cloud-based Solution: With a cloud-based file storage solution like Dropbox, you can collect, organize, and categorize all of your digital paperwork. If you work with a lot of files, you can use Dropbox to make it easy for all employees to access relevant information with permission-based access.
- Set up a Knowledge Base or Wiki: If a cloud-based solution is like a virtual filing cabinet, a knowledge base or Wiki is like hosting your own library. You can fill this in-house library with all company process guidelines, onboarding process information, and project-specific guidance for easy retrieval.
Enable Live Document Editing
Storing all of your virtual documentation is one thing, but accessing and editing documents in real time is another.
As part of your communication strategy, you need to think about how team members can coordinate and collaborate on tasks and projects. One of the best ways to enable teamwork is to use software like Google Docs, as it allows multiple collaborators to edit a document at once.
Between your file storage solution and live document or asset editing, your teams should have no problem staying in touch about ongoing projects and working in tandem.
Using the best monitoring software for Mac or Windows, you can monitor employee computer activity and find out through screenshots and app usage tracking how your team members work together in real time.
Wondering how to track user activity on the computer?
Insightful solves the issue of how to monitor work from home employees by offering a range of features designed to track time data and generate productivity and performance reports. Workstation monitoring tools provide you with a way of bringing collaboration and communication practices into sharp focus.
Check in Regularly
As part of your communication strategy, you should factor in regular check-ins.
You can point your remote teams in the right direction with clear guidelines and the right tools for staying in touch, but it’s still important to regularly brief and invite feedback from team members.
Scheduling weekly or biweekly check-ins allows you to touch base on the current projects your team is working on, and open the floor to questions. These regular check-ins can become a pillar of your communication strategy, and can help you navigate uncertain economic times when the scope or circumstances around certain projects is liable to change frequently.
Allow for Casual Conversation
While it may not seem like a cornerstone of an effective communication strategy, allowing for casual conversation among remote teams is more important than you might think.
Isolation is one of the biggest reasons remote employees feel as if they’re cut off in their own work silos.
To prevent remote employees from feeling as if they’ve been cut adrift from one another, allowing casual conversation can help promote bonding and encourage cross-functional collaboration.
Here are several ways to incorporate team member conversation in your communication strategy:
Introduce Casual Lunch Chats - To encourage team member conversation without disrupting workflow, try introducing casual chats during the lunch break. Providing work schedules align, you can open up a casual Zoom call or Slack channel for team members to enter on their lunch break for a quick catch-up.
Create After-work Cooldowns - If team members are receptive to the idea, you can put on brief post-work cooldown chats. In these chats, team members can decompress after a hard day’s work and organize in-person or virtual meetups.
Start a Monthly Quiz - Set up interactive socialization events such as trivia quizzes or virtual escape rooms that promote team-building and coworker conversation.