The culture of work may be changing, but the value and effectiveness of clear communication is not.
In fact, as people spend less time in the office—which results in less face time with the team—clearly communicating ideas, emotions, and concerns is necessary when body language and the benefits of proximity are absent.
Teams that work well together communicate effortlessly. Technology and software facilitate various styles of communication; it’s important for your team to test different platforms so your thoughts and ideas flow freely.
Since more than half of the team at Help Scout works remotely, I curated some ideas from our archives and insightful resources from other sites. Together, these should provide a general framework on how remote teams are communicating effectively, what tools they use, the roadblocks they face, and underlying strategies that coalesce various remote work components to ensure productivity and progress.
If there is anything that drives ideas forward, builds morale, and unites a common cause regardless of time zones, it’s the words that we use and—more importantly—how we use them.
Below are 24 insights on the topics of communication, tools, and productivity.
Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone. —Fred Rogers
“Candor among teams hinges on the ability of information to flow freely and uninhibited.” Without facial cues or obvious body language, candor can only be consistent and fruitful if there’s a shared understanding of how to give and receive feedback.
Janet Choi from iDoneThis says: “The biggest challenge of working in remote teams isn’t dealing with the physical distribution of your teammates but reducing the psychological distance between everyone. Bridging that distance is probably a test for all types of teams but requires more work as a remote team.”
Sometimes we don’t know what fun is until we see an example worthy of emulating. Buffer put together a fantastic list of how they communicate and connect—from bonding sessions, HipChat conversations, and sharing books and jokes on Facebook, Buffer is a company that understands remote culture.
Hiring and onboarding are important prerequisites for inducting a new team member into a remote work culture. It’s about finding the right talent in a different state (or country!) while also matching it with the necessary personality that fits the culture and values of the team.
“Communication is the main problem observed in virtual teams. Of the 247 working adults surveyed, 38% indicated that communication is their top concern when required to work with a virtual team. This ties in closely with the next two concerns, mainly technology to facilitate communication, as well as productivity that could be indirectly affected by the lack of communication.”
“When communicating with remote workers, you need to make sure that your emails and messages come across in the tone that you intended. Always re-read your emails before you send them. Try reading them in different emotional tones to see if there’s any way the recipient can misinterpret them.”
Writing is one of the greatest skills you can hone as a remote worker. Clear writing conveys ideas and emotions properly, champions clarity, and acts as the glue to form bonds with your team. With emails, notes, letters, or even a quick ping, it’s not so much what you say but how you say it.
Sometimes an email should have been a call or a call could have been an email. Knowing which styles of communication are appropriate for specific contexts is important in reducing wasted energy and time.
Tools and Strategy
“We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” —Marshall McLuhan
Dan Martell, CEO and founder of Clarity, compiled a list of the best platforms for communication, task management, and file sharing.
Mathias Meyer at Travis CI talks about why communication is asynchronous, why face time is invaluable, and why remote work is about happiness.
Here are some insights from Help Scout on how you can prepare your team for remote work and what it takes to be effective.
Wade Foster at Zapier believes that there are 3 ingredients for making remote work great: team, tools, and process. This is an in-depth read chock-full of great insights.
“It cannot be understated how important a great team is to a business’ success. The quality of the work you do will never exceed the quality of the team behind it. To many entrepreneur’s and manager’s dismay, team building often seems as complicated as watchmaking—there are a lot of moving parts, and things have to be just right in order to create something magical.”
“Most importantly, sleep… .Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?” —Maria Popova
After two years of working remotely, Greg Ciotti shares his reflections on the differing styles of work and how your team can stay on top of its game.
“In today’s crazy world, productivity is on the minds of many. So what can science tell us about the human brain and productive work? How do we become more efficient at working, and spend less time working overall?”
Here’s a great, curated list of tools to help you stay focused and productive. In the comfort of your home or workspace, there are elements of distraction that must be kept at bay.
(A personal favorite of mine not included in the list: Noisli).
A scientific deep-dive on how different kinds of noises—white or ambient noise, lyrics, classical music—affect the way we work.
Remote work requires more self-awareness. You must be conscious of your habits, environment, and energy levels. Tinkering with little things like your office space or desk can make a difference in your output and overall mood. It takes time, but it’s worth it.
“The spaces we occupy shape who we are and how we behave. This has serious consequences for our psychological well-being and creative performance. Given that many of us spend years working in the same room, or even at the same desk, it makes sense to organize and optimize that space in the most beneficial ways possible.”
Disconnecting from work when we’re in our homes seems easy at first, but if you really love your work, it’s hard to let go. Working longer hours can be a byproduct of getting lost in a state of flow. However, if we aren’t mindful, we can burn ourselves out. This TED talk from Arianna Huffington on rest is a must-watch.
Does the sudden ring of your phone break your focus? Does having multiple tabs on your browser seduce you to, you know, click around? Kevan Lee at Buffer shares some scientific insights into productivity, distractions, and why being vigilant toward one specific task forces us to actually get it done.
Meetings are important, no doubt, but without meticulously planning and understanding the objectives, there is often nothing more wasteful than time spent in a meeting. Seth Godin says, “It’s a huge mistake to just show up in a conference room and have a meeting. If the expectation is ‘yet another meeting’, then the odds are, you’ll have yet another meeting.”
Pair this with Paul Graham’s Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.