How to Communicate with Remote Teams [3 Methods to Try Now]
Summary: To understand how to communicate with remote teams, it’s important to consciously include nonverbal context in our communication style, especially when it can make a difference.
To communicate effectively, Work From Anywhere™ teams are developing innovative ways to ensure that they truly understand each other. And they’re using technology tools like Ninety® to make it happen. Find out how.
Many researchers who study human behavior have discovered the 7% Rule: only seven percent of communication is verbal and the rest is nonverbal. Although this research is disputed by others, we know instinctively that when conversing, people are tuned into not only what we’re saying but how we’re saying it. We provide important context to our words through tone of voice, facial expressions and body language.
When we are physically in the same room talking with another person, we’ll likely have the advantage of nonverbal clues to help us better understand each other’s emotional state and true meaning. To understand how to communicate with remote teams however, we realize the benefits of nonverbal context are often absent unless we consciously include them in our communication style.
Could this explain the proliferation of exclamation points, avatars and emojis in written messages? Possibly. One thing is certain: To communicate effectively, Work From Anywhere™ (WFA) teams are developing innovative ways to ensure that they truly understand each other. And they’re using technology tools like Ninety® to make it happen.
This is why clear communication needs to be deliberate, concise and responsive when teams WFA.
Asynchronous Communication, Burstiness and Virtual Face-to-Face
With minimal face-to-face communication happening in real-time for WFA teams, we’re getting creative. Asynchronous communication, burstiness, and virtual face-to-face are three ways for teams to better communicate and be heard.
Asynchronous Communication – This form of communication gives the recipient time to receive, absorb, comprehend and respond to it on their own schedule. It involves messages like email, texts, and messaging on apps.
Asynchronous communication is different from synchronous communication because it doesn't happen in real-time. And it is different from synchronous communication, where people are in the moment or in sync with each other when delivering and responding to information, which happens immediately. This type of communication involves phone calls, in-person meetings, and live video conferencing.
Here are just a few benefits of asynchronous communication:
- Makes it easier for teams to work remotely without fear that they're missing out on critical conversations happening in the office.
- Allows teams to document conversations.
- Makes it easier for teams that work in the office to navigate the comings and goings of colleagues’ different work schedules.
- Allows each team member to communicate ideas when they are ready.
- Can allow for better, more productive conversations.
Communication in Bursts – New research from the Harvard Business Review suggests communication is most effective when teams do so in rapid-fire bursts followed by periods of uninterrupted “deep work time” when they can form and develop their ideas. Afterward, they can align their schedules to communicate new information synchronously.
Communication in bursts also has some great benefits:
- It can foster creativity, streamline processes, reduce the stress of multi-tasking and improve team performance.
- Burst times help to focus energy, develop ideas and achieve closure on specific questions
- It can benefit remote teams more by being in sync with the natural “bursty” rhythm of human communication.
- It focuses on short periods of synchronous communication when people align their work routines to connect and respond rapidly and attentively.
Virtual Face-to-Face – Although some research suggests video conferencing can often disrupt the non-verbal cues that enhance collaboration, it also finds that not having access to visual cues, as in audio-only calls, actually increase equality in speaking time. Nonetheless, virtual face-to-face meetings are a great alternative to in-person meetings for WFA teams.
There are some strong benefits for virtual face-to-face meetings:
- People can synchronize through facial expression and voice to convey shared attention and empathy.
- Conversations that involve subtle emotional nuance are better served by face-to-face remote meetings.
- Task-focused conversations can be better served by audio-only remote meetings due to the distributed focus on various forms of information such as paper and digital documents or a whiteboard.
- Recording video conferencing sessions enables documentation.
Action Step: How To Communicate to Teams
- Use live video conferencing to provide important context.
Video conferencing can provide a lot of the context that’s missing from an email, a Slack message, or a voice call. Seeing each other helps forge emotional bonds and familiarity that’s hard to create in faceless communications. It also enables the precise communication that’s vital for effective meetings.
Only use video conferencing when absolutely necessary, though. Screen conversations are not the same as talking to people in person and too many of them can tire people out, just like too many non-essential in-person meetings.
- Make agreements about what communication is conducted on which channel.
For instance, Weekly Meetings are likely to take place via video conference due to their importance and timeliness. When holding a video conference, try to avoid splitting the audience between in-person and virtual attendees as it can dilute attention. Sometimes it’s unavoidable (think team members who work in different countries). In this case, have all team members access the video conference remotely.
Unless it’s truly time-sensitive, informational meetings will not need to utilize immediate messaging, such as Slack. Instead, use an asynchronous means of communication such as email. Texting someone should be reserved for urgent communications where time is truly of the essence.
- Give teams the freedom to create agreed-upon communication norms.
Team members need uninterrupted chunks of time when they can do creative Work that requires focus. Allow team members to set boundaries and develop a system so everyone knows exactly how to communicate with others who signal do-not-disturb (DND). Coach them to check before they potentially interrupt another’s focused Work.
Ninety Enables Good Communication
Regardless of location, good communication helps everyone speak the same language within your organization. Ninety® Whole Company Tools™ help everyone understand communication better by clearly laying out your vision for the future and the ways to get there.
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