What are the biggest challenges of effective communication while working remotely? How can we improve our communication with our team members?

Remote working has changed the way many of us communicate as teams. And so, effective communication is now more critical than ever before. 

According to research, 63% of American workers want to quit their jobs because poor communication prevented them from doing their job effectively.

In addition to helping retain the best employees, communication is a crucial pillar of collaboration, ultimately determining your team and company success. 

86% of employees and executives cite a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures, according to research. 

During the last year, we have all made immense efforts to ensure that communication and collaboration in the workplace continue to be effective. Nonetheless, we are still learning, with many companies working towards long-term hybrid or fully remote models. 

In our experience, there is no one size fits all when it comes to effective communication. How you define and structure your communication processes will vary depending on many factors, such as the number of people in the organisation, time zones, flexibility, etc.

However, there are many common factors that we should consider to achieve effective communication. 

CHALLENGES OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

  1. Meetings overload provoking zoom fatigue. 
  2. Difficulty to find opportunities for “water cooler conversations”. 
  3. Finding the best time.
  4. Struggling to ask questions and find quick answers. 
  5. Trouble building trust within relationships. 
  6. Loss or missing information. 
  7. Different people, different needs. 

TIPS TO ACHIEVE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

Encourage every form of communication 

The first step towards effective communication is to encourage it. One of the challenges of remote working has been the missed opportunities for people to learn from their colleagues. 

Studies have found that office watercoolers help employees share their risky ideas and intentions, produce better research, and gain a 10% to 15% bump in productivity.

So, make sure you highlight the importance of asking questions and having ongoing communication within the team. 

As a leader, you need to lead by example. Encouragement is not only about what we say but also how we react when communication takes place. 

Provide the proper channels 

There are different types of communication, each differently suited to priority levels, subjects, teams, etc. So ensuring that we have the right channels is essential. 

Think about the different types of communication your organisation needs (instant messaging, “face to face”, teams projects, …) and organise your channels accordingly. 

Also, make sure you provide channels for both synchronous and asynchronous communications. And don’t forget to establish clear and understandable processes and etiquette for when people should use each one. 

Assigning priority to projects and tasks can make it easier to designate the right channel for them. 

Allow time for social interactions

Building trusting relationships is more challenging when working remotely. But trust is essential in a team, and social interactions are a big part of creating trust.

Even if they are online, organising social activities is a great way to build trusting relationships and therefore improve communication. It’s always easier to communicate when we have a connection with the other person. 

effective communication

According to statistics, 50% of the positive changes in communication patterns within the workplace can be accredited to social interaction outside of the workplace. 

As you can see, communication doesn’t end when we leave the office or shut the computer down. As a leader, you need to keep in mind how social interactions affect your team and plan accordingly. (Check out our experiential events here)

Make sure everyone is part of the conversation

Participation, particularly in big groups, can be challenging for some people, so make sure you’re including everyone and encourage them to participate and ask questions. 

Workers aged 18-24 and 25-34 reported 10% decreases in the information given to them by management since they moved to remote working.

It’s important to consider new people too because they will probably feel less comfortable participating in group conversations. 

Also, according to research, 44% of people struggle to keep up with the conversation on a video call if too many people participate.

Keep in mind the number of attendees and try to reduce it when possible. 

Avoid zoom fatigue

Unfortunately, the term “zoom fatigue” is not a mystery anymore. In the process of imitating the office environment, many companies fall into the trap of overscheduling meetings. 

effective communication

According to a survey of 182 senior managers by the University of North Carolina, 65% said meetings keep them from completing their work, 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient, and 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.

When we overbook our schedules with meetings, we are taking time out of doing the actual work, and it will also impact our level of stress, engagement, and productivity. 

To avoid zoom fatigue, it helps to understand what is causing it:

The missing non-verbal communication cues. Our brains keep on looking for them, but they can’t find them while online. 

TIP: Try to be more precise, even if it seems like over-communicating. 

Learn to leverage its features. Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL), has studied the psychological reasons behind “zoom fatigue”

And he has come up with some easy to adopt changes that we can do to improve the way we use video conferencing tools. These are four reasons behind it and Bailenson’s solutions for them:

  • Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense.

TIP: Don’t use the full-screen option and add an external keyboard so that we can move further from the screen and camera. 

  • Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing.

TIP: Use the “Hide self-view” button (hover over your video and click the ellipses button, then choose “hide self-view”). 

  • Video chats dramatically reduce our normal mobility.

TIP: Use an external camera to allow more movement space or switch to camera off mode once in a while. 

  • The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.

TIP: Turn off your camera when possible. 

Be clear and organised 

An essential part of effective communication, even more in remote teams, is organisation. To avoid meeting overload or productivity loss, you have to organise and schedule meetings to create minimum disruptions. 

Did you know that “After a meeting, people take an average of 18 minutes to get their head back into work mode, with one in ten people taking at least 30 minutes before feeling productive again”? 

The best way to organise meetings will vary depending on your company. We have found that meetings first thing in the morning, or at the end of the day cause less distraction and work best for us.

Set up a clear plan

Having a clear agenda with main points and expectations can help maximise online meetings. Send a brief memo with bullet points or even communicate in advance what documents people will need during the conversations. 

Employees spend an average of 47 minutes getting physically and mentally prepared before using tools like Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft.” 

Keep in mind the needs of different people 

According to research, younger people report having more difficulty when it comes to working remotely, including communication and collaboration. 

This could be because of their environments; younger people don’t have access to their own spaces. But it could also be because they are new to the company or even new to the work environment altogether. 

Being the new person in a team is already a challenge, but it gets worse if you can’t interact face to face with the rest of your team and learn all the tricks of everyday life on the job. 

THE OPTIMIST VIEW…

As Optimists, we are always looking for better ways, and finding suitable forms of communication in this new era of work is definitely crucial for us. 

Hopefully, these tips will help you to find your way too. But if you need a bit of external help, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our mission is to help leaders and organisations maximise their potential, and communication is a key ingredient. 

And if you’re looking for the right social activity for your team, we would love to help; click here to learn more about our experiential events. The best way to build trust in a team is by sharing a life-changing experience that creates memories and bonds people together.