How to Effectively Communicate With Remote Workers
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Remote workers are a growing part of today’s workforce. Remote work saves businesses money, and workers are generally happier and more satisfied with their jobs. Communication is one of the biggest challenges to the absence of a cohesive center where work happens every day.
However, this newer labor market has spurred the development of plenty of tools and techniques to help everyone stay on the same page. Keep reading to learn more about ways you can connect with your remote workforce to build a more productive team and create a sense of cooperation despite your physical distance.
Use Video Conferencing Tools
Web Conferencing is the next best thing to meeting in person—better than meeting in person if you’re an introvert as a matter of fact. When you have the opportunity to see body language and facial expressions that go along with the words, it brings more meaning to your communication.
When someone sounds mad, they may simply be frustrated. If they sound disinterested, they may just be tired. A phone conversation or an email would not give you that information, but video conferencing does. When people have the ability to put their communication into affective context, it builds a greater sense of trust and understanding.
In addition to building your relationship, information-sharing is so much easier when you can just talk about the problem at hand while you’re looking at it. Video conferencing tools allow you to share screens, files, and graphics, leading to fewer wires being crossed and a more immediate solution when that does happen.
Create a Way to Make Personal Connections
Some remote teams share a non-work-related question each week. Others have a separate dedicated non-work group chat. If you are close in proximity to each other, you could schedule regular outings or lunches. If you are not, maybe an annual retreat is in order. This gives you all a chance to get to know each other better.
People who are more familiar with each other’s quirks and individuality generally have more relaxed and open communication, which leads to a greater sense of camaraderie and cooperation.
Use the Same Technology Across the Whole Team
Every team has at least one or two people who just can’t seem to get with the program and use the same apps and tools as everyone else. The whole group uses Slack for their on-the-spot communication, while Joe is still using Facebook Messenger. Everyone shares their documents through Google Docs, but Susan still creates Word documents and emails them out.
This leads to messages and potentially important information getting missed. Even though it seems like everyone should just be able to accommodate receiving information from every platform out there, we all know that our lives would be so much easier if they all came from the same few apps.
Break Down Which Messages Belong on Which Platforms
Not only is it necessary for everyone to be on the same page with which apps and software they are using, but they need to know which messages belong where. The general consensus is that emails are better for longer messages and one-on-one communication, while Slack is better for short messages and group problem-solving.
It is ultimately up to you and your workers to decide which avenues of communication are appropriate for various purposes, but everyone should adhere to the agreed-upon guidelines.
Share the Big Picture
When your workers know what the ultimate goal of their work is, they have a greater sense of purpose. Being able to see the big picture creates an understanding that helps to fill in the blanks, and may actually lead to fewer questions. Knowing exactly what they are contributing helps remote workers feel more part of a team.
Unless you have a clear understanding that neither of you appreciates more communication than necessary, you should probably aim to communicate to the point of annoyance. Do not leave anything open for interpretation.
If a worker is not clear about an assignment before they begin, time, energy, and money could be wasted. You do not necessarily have to manage every single detail, especially once you know you can trust your worker’s judgment. Just know that everything about the way you communicate should be as clear and easy to understand as possible.
On a more personal level, when a remote worker sends you a long message detailing a situation and you respond with a word or two, they sometimes end up feeling deflated. Worry may start to creep in about whether you are irritated—or maybe that you just don’t care—when in actuality you were just late for a meeting and wanted to give a prompt answer.
Take the time to tack on another word or two, and you could thwart a remote worker’s agony over lack of communication.
You already put your trust in your remote workers to get the job done without being under your supervision every moment of the day. Give them the space they need in order to independently solve problems and think through issues. Yes, if there is a major complication, by all means, step in. Also, encourage plenty of questions and offer help if necessary. However, part of the appeal of remote working is a greater sense of independence. Trust that they will do the job right, and you will have a loyal team member that works to make sure they continue to keep that trust.
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