8 Tips to Improve Remote Work Communication With Your Teammates
Your remote work communication skills make all the difference in whether your virtual team sails or sinks through projects.
Just think about it: remote teams are drowning in a sea of messages, from Slack notifications to project management updates to in-doc collaboration requests.
Reading and responding to these messages is almost a full-time job in and of itself. And that’s before you can actually dive deep into your flow state work.
So how do you get your head above water?
You can’t ignore team communication. But you can make it better.
8 Tips To Improve Remote Work Communication With Your Teammates
Stellar communication skills are a number one priority for remote employees. It’s how global teams stay on the same page and reach milestones and goals together.
These remote work communication tips and techniques will take your team to the next level of productivity and efficiency and reduce miscommunications simultaneously:
1. GET THE BASICS OF REMOTE WORK COMMUNICATION UNDER YOUR BELT
You need to master the foundations of solid remote communication before you can step up your game. Our guide on communicating effectively on a remote team outlined five essentials you should have in place, including:
- Keep your writing and communication clear, concise, and consistent. Clear writing sticks to the facts. It also calls for an assertive, active voice over passive voice.
Concise writing gets to the point ASAP. Brevity is your friend here. Don’t be scared to toss in a few emojis to lighten the tone of what may come off as being short with others.
Consistent communication creates certainty and eliminates doubt about what someone should do next. It also follows your team’s remote communication guidelines.
- Be mindful of your virtual body language (read: posture is everything). Your remote team can tell when you’re not paying attention or super into the Zoom call you’re participating in.
- Consider context. Communicating with global remote teams means you’ll need to develop an awareness of other people’s cultural norms, time zones, native language differences, personality, etc. when you read and write messages.
- Designate specific tools for different types of messages. Try to get your team to agree to a specific communication workflow. Each channel should have a clear purpose, like using:
- Slack and other chat apps for quick updates, daily check-ins, and employee bonding around the virtual watercooler.
- Project management tools for assigning tasks, managing deadlines, status updates, questions/comments, etc.
- Video conferences for brainstorming sessions, project kickoffs and post-mortems, and weekly or monthly check-ins.
- Email for action-related items, formal requests, and client communication.
- Text messages for emergencies and time-sensitive issues.
- You may need to go through some trial and error to see which types of communication channels work best for your team here. Then make sure your communication falls in the right silo.
- Think critically. Never play the blame game and accuse your team members of miscommunicating something you might have just misunderstood.
Think about when messages are sent and who’s sending them. Ask for feedback if you’re unsure. Try to clarify and summarize what you’re reading and interpreting (So what I’m gathering is that you’d like me to…).
Most teams outline these guidelines during their remote onboarding process. But if you haven’t, it’s essential for your team to:
2. AGREE ON CLEAR COMMUNICATION GUIDELINES
Remote communication guidelines establish a playbook everyone on your team will follow as a unit. These rules help teammates set healthy boundaries at work remotely. And they should include:
Available work/communication hours. When creating your personal work from home schedule, you may decide to have mornings off because you’re more productive in the afternoon or evening. You might also have team members clocking in from different time zones.
Sharing your available work window tells others when you’ll be in contact and able to respond to messages. It keeps everyone accountable during the work day and tells others not to wait around or expect a response during off-hours.
Check-in policies. Some teams like daily check-ins via Slack. Others prefer team check-ins after project milestones. Be proactive and communicate consistently to avoid confusion or misunderstandings later on, whichever route you choose.
3. WHEN COMMUNICATING, LEAD WITH THE MOST IMPORTANT INTEL (I.E., USE THE INVERTED PYRAMIC)
Journalists have long followed the Inverted Pyramid strategy to write captivating headlines and news articles, and it may help you share information more productively.
According to this strategy, you should structure your messages so they lead with the most important information. If someone doesn’t have time to finish the rest of your message, what’s the most crucial intel you want them to walk away with?
Begin your messages with that.
From there, add your body of supporting details in descending order of importance. Conclude with extra content that may prove useful or “nice to know,” but could ultimately go unread without sacrificing someone’s understanding of your message.
Following this strategy gives your teammates the most essential information quickly and allows them to act fast. If they need further clarification, they can read the rest when they have more time.
4. WRITE LIKE A MARKETER
Marketers know how to write messages that command attention. They get people to stop what they’re doing, understand what they’re saying, and sway them into taking action. That’s exactly what you should aim for.
So whenever you’re typing up an email or Slack message, run through and answer these questions:
- What am I ultimately trying to convey here?
- What issue/problem am I attempting to solve?
- Who is my audience?
- What does my recipient need from me?
- How could this message fail or seem confusing?
- How can I simplify this message, so it’s easier to understand?
- What can I delete without losing the meaning?
- Am I making assumptions about what my recipient should know?
- How do I define a successful response?
Though this may require a bit more legwork on the front end, it means less confusion and back-and-forth later.
Marketers and web designers are also experts at using strong calls to action in their messaging. A call to action guides people to a desired outcome. It’s the equivalent of Click Here or Buy Now links and buttons.
In a remote work communication setting, CTAs give teammates a helpful nudge on what you want them to accomplish next. Do you want them to review an attached spreadsheet or start A/B testing a new strategy?
Only use one CTA per message. You don’t want to confuse recipients or give them too many choices. They may not know which to follow or struggle to make a decision, and do nothing as a result of their confusion.
Keep teams focused on the specific outcome you want them to take and make it easy for them to follow through on it. Leave no doubt about their next steps.
Draw attention to your CTA using formatting (such as bold, italics, or a different font color). And if you place your CTA on a separate line, you’ll help it stand out even more.
5. MAKE LONGER MESSAGES SKIMMABLE AND USE VISUALS WHEREVER POSSIBLE
See how we’re using headings to break up different points and bold sentences to break down additional ones?
When someone’s skimming an article like this, they don’t have to read every line word-for-word; they can scan around to the most interesting points and zero in on the new information they need.
So before you send a message, make sure it passes the scan test and includes:
- Actionable headings and subheadings that break up long or complicated blocks of information.
- “Chunked” information, which is easier to read and digest than a huge wall of text. Keep sentences under 25 words and paragraphs between 40 and 50 words.
- Eye-catching colors and highlighting to emphasize important points and help people remember them.
- Bullet points to summarize intel quickly. Keep explanations/descriptions roughly the same length for all points.
- Adequate white space. Readers need a visual breather from your words. Giving them a break via white space, or what’s left on the page/message around your text, gives them breathing room so they’re not overwhelmed.
- Easy-to-read language. Skip the technical jargon, acronyms, shorthand, and slang words and phrases, especially if you’re speaking with a global team. These may get lost in translation and cause unnecessary confusion for everyone.
Visual elements are always more engaging than text alone. So whenever possible, try to add flowcharts to explain complicated processes or infographics and funny GIFs to break up less than exciting text.
6. USE VIDEO MESSAGES FOR ADDITIONAL CONTEXT
What if you have a lot of new information to share with your team? You could try to schedule another Zoom call and corral all your teammates in different time zones together in one place to hear it.
Or you could leave everyone a video message instead.
Remote tools like Loom let you record yourself and your screen simultaneously.
So rather than leaving a novella of text for everyone, you can explain the needs of a new client you’re onboarding, describe a new procedure or complicated workflow, or guide your team with an easy-to-follow instructional video.
You’ll avoid Zoom fatigue and give everyone a handy piece of content to inform and refer back to.
7. BECOME AN ASYNCHRONOUS COMMUNICATION MASTER
Asynchronous communication allows team members to respond to messages when it’s most productive for them to do so. Instead of sending out a quick reply as soon as a message hits their inbox, they can wait until they have the time/brainpower to give the request their full, undivided attention.
This gives everyone the ability to focus on their deep work without feeling pressured to interrupt their flow to answer an email or get off track on a different project. But it’s definitely not for emergencies or urgent requests.
Psst! We wrote a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about using asynchronous communication on a remote team, so check that out!
To make asynchronous communication work, you must give teammates everything they need to get up and running on their own. That means outlining details, attaching files, linking to relevant documents, adding deadlines, etc.
Your recipient shouldn't have to reply with follow-up questions and should be able to start working ASAP, thanks to your solid communication.
8. COMMUNICATE ABOUT NON-WORK STUFF TOO
By now your team has a Slack channel for virtual watercooler chit-chat, right? Here’s where you can discuss your latest Netflix binge-fest, share photos of your pets and dream home offices, and have virtual coffee breaks or trivia nights together.
Keep doing this, and try some of these non-cheesy team building tips for remote employees too.
Building a rapport with your team is essential for building understanding, trust, and genuine personal connections. When teams feel connected, communication flows openly with fewer misunderstandings.
Now You’re Ready To Take Your Remote Work Communication To New Heights
If you’ve been struggling with remote work communication, these tips and techniques should help your team become a well-oiled communication machine.
You’ll be able to keep everyone in the loop easier, avoid miscommunication, and function more productively individually and together.
💫 For more helpful tips to grow in your dream remote career, check out the We Work Remotely Learning Portal! You’ll have access to our large global Slack community, remote-focused events, career coaching, and more!
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