Every successful company understands the value of effective internal communications. One of the more significant communication challenges many companies face involves keeping in touch with team members who work remotely outside of the office in other parts of the country or around the world. In this article, expert communicator Michael Evan Salley discusses five tips for establishing and maintaining effective communication with remote staffers.
1. Establish Standard Practices and Conventions
Setting up simple and easy to understand ground rules for communication procedures will go a long way towards promoting responsibility and responsiveness with remote team members.
For example, set up a memorandum or a wiki that details simple communication conventions. In what time zone will communications take place? Does the content of a subject line key an expected response time? What response is necessary to confirm receipt of a message? How does a remote staffer alert others that they will be unavailable? As your organization develops more conventions, your memorandum can change.
Simple guidelines that apply across your entire organization will promote clarity and will address most communication mistakes without an involved discussion.
2. Use a Chat Program
Most people in the modern world have adapted to using text messaging and chat programs to stay in touch quickly and easily. Chat programs are much more efficient than lengthy email chains.
Real-time chat is more interactive and works much faster than email. Chat allows for a conversation to move quickly while one or both sides of a conversation are working on other tasks, or even having a separate discussion at the same time. Chat conversations are much more like natural in-person conversations and lead to faster and better conclusions than email exchanges. Chat programs allow for fast indications of when a team member is on break or back at their desk. Most chat programs also allow for quick transfers of files and other attachments.
3. Have Regular Staff Meetings Including Remote Members
Although meetings and informal get-togethers are important for any working group, it is critical to keep remote workers involved. Remote staffers often report feeling left out of company events and disconnected from the organizational network.
When possible, schedule in-person fun events with remote team members and in-office staffers. Enjoying time together away from work helps all of your members build relationships and promotes your desired corporate culture and morale. When workers are too far away for these types of meetings, schedule group video conferences to encourage discussion of company policies and goals.
Either through your chat program or a shared electronic address book, develop a simple way for remote team members to stay in touch with each other. You will find that these types of relationships often grow quickly, and they will benefit your business and your workers.
4. Focus on Using Email Effectively
As discussed above, email is not as efficient or user-friendly as chat or voice calls, but sometimes it is the best option. Team members will often need to communicate with people outside of your organization or to send a standard message to a diverse group, and those occasions typically call for a standard email.
A practical solution for cluttered inboxes and lost messages might be a quality project management program. Modern programs can route emails through specific projects and help resolve unanswered messages or broken communication chains.
5. Promote Respect and Responsiveness with Your Remote Team Members
Always be aware that people make mistakes or are misunderstood in communications whether inside your office space or in their remote workspaces. Always give the benefit of the doubt when you can, and handle miscommunications with courtesy and respect. Make sure that your in-house team members understand that you expect them to treat remote workers as they would their colleagues in the actual office.
Verbal and visual social cues that we are used to innately do not regularly translate to the written word in chat or email messages. Remind everyone that sometimes a simple emoji can break tension or promote understanding just as much as a simple nod does in real life.
About Michael Evan Salley
Michael Evan Salley’s success as a project manager is based on his Master’s in Construction Science and Management, OSHA Certification, LEED Green Associate Credential, strong work ethic, leadership skills, and experience in contractor interactions and commercial construction. Mr. Salley is a dependable, organized, team-oriented problem solver who thrives when working under pressure. He is at his best when taking initiative and making sound decisions, which allows him to quickly gain confidence and trust from fellow employees.