Managing Remote Teams: How to Work & Collaborate Effectively
People who work on remote teams face communications challenges consistently. As more and more of our interactions happen digitally, we will continue to experience new forms of miscommunication and misunderstanding.
Why do remote teams demand new collaboration skills? What’s missing from our texts, emails, conference calls, and other digital communications? Body language. Even when we’re co-located, the tone of a text or the formality of an email is left wide open to interpretation, to the point that even our closest friends get confused. These misinterpretations create anxiety that can become costly, affecting morale, engagement, productivity, and innovation. Here are the best practices to consider to collaborate effectively when your team is remote.
1. Get the timing right
People who are successful at work know that the key is to be intentional about timing. They don't just think about what and how to say or do something, but also when to say or do it. Not to mention, we all need time to actually get work done, and not just participate in answering emails or replying to Slack messages all day.
As a remote manager, it’s your responsibility to make the timing of communication clear. You’ll want to set expectations to answer the following questions for everyone:
What time zones is everyone working in? How will this be communicated?
What are the expected working hours each person has? What should the overlapping working hours for folks in different time zones be?
If you need to be offline to run an errand or are in a meeting, how will that be communicated?
How will it be communicated when someone is on vacation or traveling?
Are there any times team members should not be disturbed?
What’s the expected response time to messages? Does that vary depending on what the message is, or the channel that it is delivered in?
2. Match the message to the channel
If you want your work operations to run smoothly without confusion among your workforce, it's imperative to be delivered in a myriad of formats: Email, chat, video call, phone call. So to avoid the barrage of messages pelting others without any rhyme or reason, you’ll want to create some sort of delineation of what kind of message should be delivered in which channel.
Oftentimes, this is related to the salience and urgency of a message. For instance, a direct message in Slack might insinuate that a message is urgent and should be responded to within the hour versus something posting a message in a general channel might mean it doesn’t need to be looked at until the next day, if at all. This guideline should enlist all the channels of communication that your team uses and their specific purpose. [Read related article: How to Communicate Effectively]
3. Honor the quiet
No communication is a communication process in itself and an important one in remote work. With time and attention being so precious, you don’t want to bombard people with messages incessantly. You must give them space to accomplish their work. It’s more important to give employees quiet time than it is to cram them into an open office.
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