The Importance of Effective Communication in a Remote Workforce


Remote work has been thrust into the spotlight these past few months. In many organizations, this sudden transition has been disruptive and confusing — for employees who are more comfortable with the routines of a traditional physical office setting, as well as leaders who previously haven’t managed remote workers.

That’s why it’s critical to deploy parameters and guidance around remote work — from technologies to simple best practices. While it may require a little extra work for C-level executives to manage remote workers in the short term, it has payoffs in the long run as employees discover improved communication and collaboration.

Choose communication mediums carefully

There has been a bombardment of virtual meetings, emails, and chats. All the conversations that occurred in the conference room, at the water cooler, around cubicles, and at customers’ locations now suddenly take place online or on the phone.

To help them feel less overwhelmed and frustrated, employees — especially those new to remote work — may need guidance around which communication method is best.

To that end, advise remote workers to consider the conversation’s: complexity, length, emotional delicacy, time sensitivity, and the level of collaboration required. Here are some tips that can be shared with employees:

  • Email: Good for straightforward, brief, neutral, and evergreen information that doesn’t require timely responses, collaboration or discussion.
  • IM/Chat: These conversations encourage socializing and are great for quick Q&As, real-time collaboration, and to share time-sensitive information and announcements.
  • Video Conferencing: Even without physical presence, virtual face-to-face meetings improve communication. Use video conferencing to explain complicated information and collaborate, and use screen-sharing to review project plans and documents.
  • Phone: When video is not a viable option, use the phone to communicate information that’s sensitive, complicated, or lengthy.

Consider how and what to communicate

There’s a comfort level associated with physical presence in an office — an understanding that it’s a place of work. Whereas, business leaders may wonder whether employees working at home have the right equipment and the right organizational structure to get work done.

To avoid confusion and making assumptions, clearly communicate goals, expectations, deadlines, and progress. And remember: It should be a two-way street; employees should keep you updated on these same things.

Also, be flexible around availability and individual work schedules. Some remote employees might prefer starting work early, taking a siesta at lunch or doing an hour of yoga in the afternoon, and then work late. This can work, as long as they build a regimented schedule and understand company requirements and timelines. Just stress that everyone needs to over-communicate their individual work hours, so there is no misunderstanding or team frustration.

Set the right example

It’s also important to focus on your own methods of communication as a leader. Especially during times of crisis, schedule consistent meetings — like all-hands, project update meetings, and one-on-ones with department heads.

When good communication practices start from the top, employees remain engaged and informed.

Finally, consider the tools remote workers are using to collaborate. Productivity and security should be primary objectives.

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