If you’ve ever worked on a distributed team, or even a remote project, you know remote team communication can be difficult.
For many people, these type of projects or companies require additional effort in order to communicate effectively.
Challenges People Face with Remote Team Communication
Many distributed teams do not have the opportunity to have a drop in meeting for an impromptu urgent question because they work in completely different timezones.
This can lead to sometimes waiting for a long time in order to get a response, which can mean either missing a deadline, or someone making a decision they might not be qualified to make. On the flip side, to resolve this, employees feel like they need to be always on to accommodate other team members in opposite time zones..
Meetings can especially be a challenge being in different timezones. It can be a stretch for many people to make it to meetings early in the morning or late in the evening. Working with someone in a timezone any more than 2 hours difference than you can be challenging. Working with someone on the other side of the world can be a downright struggle.
Remote or distributed teams have a unique challenge of communication – they can’t meet face to face.
You can call or have a conference call, but that is not as personal and lacks a screen in which you can show work or ask questions
You can send an email, but that can require a pretty large amount of messages to communicate effectively. However, email continues to remain one of the most effective and largely used ways to communicate between team members.
The Company’s Role and You
Several factors of your position and company can effect the remote team communication drastically.
Your role can drastically affect how your team communication occurs. Are you a manager, a supervisor or just an associate? All of those levels of position have different communication requirements and expectations. Where as an associate may only have a limited amount of needed communication, a manager may likely have much more communication due to amount of people they supervise and the feedback required for them
Another factor that affects remote communication is the company as a whole. Some examples of that might be
- Everyone in the entire company works remotely or from home.
- Only one person works from home and the rest of the company works in the same offices.
- Everyone working in the office, but teams are distributed all over the world.
All of these situations require different levels of team communication in order to work effectively.
Ideas and Tools to Improve Remote Team Communication
Several modern day tools have emerged in the last decade, some to specifically serve the remote communication.
Video calling with applications such as Skype or Google Hangouts is another popular way for remote teams to collaborate. These applications allow you to have a little bit more of a personal conversation by being able to see your team’s faces. To be able to see each other’s expressions can be valuable to professional relationships.
A different method of communication are messaging platforms such as Slack, HipChat, Skype or Lync. These platforms allow you to send and receive messages real time, and you can read the messages on your own time, so you don’t have to stop what you are doing. Another key benefit to messaging platforms like these is that your messages are always there, so you can even search for them in the past when you need to find a previous conversation.
Another medium of communication you may be able to improve would be the way you have meetings. Agile stand-ups can really improve the way that you update your team on your status. Typically this would be an in-person tool, but with the Allisian communication tool, your team can communicate on a daily basis, with responses stored in one place.
Time Doctor, a productivity and time tracking platform for remote teams, also has an article on enhancing team communication – check it out here.
We have another article on Remote Collaboration Tools for Global Agile Teams which has some great product recommendations in the communication space.
Regardless of how you communicate, each team is different, and you have to find the tools and methods that work for you. I hope this helps.