Communication is the cornerstone for every great relationship! We take it for granted and think it’s something easy and intuitive, but it actually takes a lot of conscious will and effort to do right. That being said, we can not overstate the importance of communication for effective teamwork and successful project conclusions. It can quite literally make or break a project! Good communication practices are something we here at Redvike take quite seriously, and we constantly work on improving them, both with clients and each other.
We’ve already talked about how important effective communication between a team and a client is, and how to improve communication practices between customers and companies. However, that’s only a part of the equation. Without great inter-team communication, no amount of client-supplier conversation can make up for that. What’s more, the situation gets even trickier when even one of the team members is working remotely! So let’s talk about remote work culture, what it involves, and how to improve it!
Why does remote team culture matter?
Work-from-home has become ubiquitous. The current pandemic pushed a lot of companies into transitioning from a common workspace to working off-site. Gone are the days for quick informal work chats, going for a coffee break together, huddling around the conference table – and all those things that make a team and a work environment. Now, many are at home sitting at their computer, maybe even in a different country than the rest of their colleagues! The spontaneity and closeness can be easily lost, and it’s very logical and natural that the level of teamwork could decrease at this time, jeopardizing work effectiveness and efficiency.
With things returning back to normal, however, many companies and employees aren’t really too enthusiastic about getting back to the office! For a whole host of reasons, many prefer to continue working from home, so the remote team culture trend isn’t anywhere close to dying! But that doesn’t deny the fact that communication – both professional and casual – is negatively affected, how important that communication is. The situation has presented a great challenge for teams trying to communicate only through online tools. Hence, many companies, including ours, started looking into ways they could improve and sustain communication between their employees.
Read on for 5 remote team communication tips!
How to build culture in a remote team?
Everything is possible with a little effort.
Prioritize video meetings – but don’t overdo it
Things can get lost in translation when they’re written down and miscommunications can cause huge problems. Talking on the phone helps, but it can still never replace face-to-face conversation. Not only can information be relayed much more quickly in video calls, but it makes space for personal connections, thus simulating a real office environment. It makes employees feel more connected to each other, to their company, and consequently to their work. It is also a great opportunity for newcomers to get acquainted with the team members and integrate into the team much more quickly.
Be warned, however, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Constant communication can be overwhelming and counterproductive. It’s been more than once that we’ve all sat in that video call and thought – “This could have been an email.” After all, people need their quiet time to actually get the work done! Some ways in which unnecessary or overly long video meetings can be avoided are:
- Setting an agenda: in this case, the participants can prepare beforehand, and it will help keep the meeting on track.
- Reviewing whether a video call is really needed: if the meeting is called only to relay information, then that would better be conveyed in an email.
- Limit the number of people on a conference call: too many people all trying to speak at once can end up with nobody being able to get their points across leading to frustration and time wasted.
Choose and use the right tools
Finding a tool that suits the needs of a remote team is not difficult, but making the choice of which and how to use them can be. Managers of remote teams need to carefully select a few communication and work tools which all members would be able to use. Furthermore, it’s important to establish guidelines about how to communicate and what tools are appropriate for which purpose. For example, a company can divide the types of communication channels they wish to have, as well as how to organize their work in the following manner:
- Use either Zoom or Microsoft Teams or Skype for video meetings.
- Use Slack for group messaging, short updates or urgent memos.
- Use Whatsapp for non-work-related messages.
- Use email for longer and more information-packed messages/reports.
- Use Notion for streamlining all tasks and work-related communication.
- Use Google Docs and Google Sheets for sharing/editing drafts.
Depending on the type of work a company does, a remote team can use numerous other tools for sharing their work and communicating with their colleagues. As long as the team members follow the set guidelines, information exchanges should go smoothly. If an issue arises, team leaders should reassess their choice of software/app and revise the communication strategy.
Establish virtual team hangouts
We mentioned how hard it is for remote work colleagues to establish meaningful personal connections outside of the office, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try! The main point is that spontaneity is difficult, so we need to plan time and activities to allow for team bonding. Companies have come up with all sorts of creative and fun solutions! Some have a virtual coffee space – a short time slot daily or a few times a week where team members have coffee together without any work agenda. Some plan informal video meetings outside of office hours, for example, a virtual Happy Hour or a virtual game night once a week! With a little imagination and a good wifi connection, there’s no shortage of fun virtual activities a remote team can partake in!
Team leaders should support their team members!
Employees want to know that their concerns are being heard and that someone is working on resolving their issues – both regarding work as well as regarding their personal state of being due to the remote work situation. For one, this means not micromanaging the team – the urge to monitor progress more diligently is actually counterproductive. For one, constant calls and check-ups will definitely cut into the actual working time and can be very distracting for everyone on the team. On the other hand, people like to feel trusted and wanted, and being continually supervised will lead to weariness and frustration.
One way to combat this, and to help illuminate other issues with a remote team culture is to set up a feedback system where team members can evaluate the current remote work environment. By determining which elements of the remote team culture are successful and which are hindering, management can work towards resolving the problems and setting up new, better protocols. This will increase efficiency and productivity, as well as make team members feel valued and understood.
Finally, it’s important for managers to create space for and actively encourage one-on-one communication with each team member. Consequently, employees are not apprehensive about contacting their superiors for whatever reason, whether to discuss their work, their mental health, or any other problem they may have. Team leaders should always remember to prioritize empathy in their interactions with the team members, earnestly hear their concerns, and support them with whatever means necessary.
Organize in-person team-building events
Regardless of how many hours people can spend texting or video chatting, nothing beats that personal connection you feel when meeting someone face-to-face. Even though the work is online, companies can and should organize team-building events for their employees. Naturally, if all the team members live in the same city, the planning and execution are easy. Things get difficult when teams are dispersed across a country, or even across one or more continents. But, companies who value their remote team culture and aim towards creating a tight-knit community of friends and coworkers will always find the resources to make that happen. For example, they can organize yearly outdoor team-building events, combine team training with relaxing activities like spa and meditation, hold fun sports competitions, etc.
Redvike’s remote team culture
What we do at Redvike to stay close together
We have our internal coffee chat
every Monday and Wednesday at 12 p.m. We talk about everything! Our vacation plans, hobbies, thoughts on recent Apple event 😀
We organize multiple trips and events!
Last time we spent the whole day kayaking on the Dunajec River. We also like to go out together and drink a good beer at a local bar in Krakow – we love our city!
From time to time we organize an office day to gather everyone in our office space, drink coffee and have a chit-chat offline.
Sports activities after hours
There are a lot of sports maniacs around us. We often work out together and even organize sports competitions to have fun.
We pay attention to how projects are managed
For example, how the project requirements are collected and how the project is planned in general. We do everything to make sure all of us feel safe and comfortable at work but also in our private lives.
Assess your remote work culture and work from there!
In the end, each team is unique and therefore requires a tailored approach. If you’re a team leader looking for ways to manage your remote work team, don’t blindly implement every single tip you read in this article or anywhere else. It’s important to primarily judge the current state of your team’s remote work culture, as well as what your team really needs, in order to gauge what is truly missing and where improvements can be made.