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How to Overcome the Communication Challenges of Remote Work

June 18 2024 - The shift to remote work has brought many advantages, including more flexibility and no commute. However, it has also introduced communication challenges that can impact collaboration and productivity. With some planning and intention, companies and individuals can overcome these hurdles. Here are a few tips.

Establish Intentional Communication Rhythms

When working in an office, communication happens organically throughout the day. Remotely, you lose those casual interactions by the water cooler or in the cafeteria. Without intentionality, communication can become very transactional and strictly work-related.

To build richer connections, establish regular check-ins, virtual team lunches, and water cooler chats. Dedicate 15 minutes each week for non-work conversations to build rapport. Use an annual leave tracker to stay on top of time off and ensure there is coverage for key tasks when people are out.

Over-Communicate Key Information

Remote workers lack the ambient awareness that comes with being in an office. They don't see quick huddles at someone's desk or overhear conversations in the hallway. Important information can slip through the cracks.

Combat this by over-communicating key details through multiple channels - email, chat, intranet postings, and virtual meetings. Summarise action items and decisions after every meeting. Follow up with team members individually to fill any gaps. Err on the side of too much communication rather than too little.

Encourage Informal Communication

Spontaneous conversations often spark new ideas and strengthen relationships. Recreate this informally when working remotely through team chat channels. Have an open channel for non-work banter. Allow space for humour, sharing food pictures, or celebrating milestones.

Get comfortable with virtual small talk before and after meetings. Set up channels for specific topics, interests, or social groups. When used appropriately, chat tools enable the informal interactions that build community.

Over-Index on Video

Email and chat are efficient ways to transmit straightforward information. But for complex or sensitive discussions, the lack of visual cues can lead to miscommunication. Where possible, opt for video conferencing over other channels.

Seeing facial expressions provides social and emotional context that gets lost otherwise. Set up regular video check-ins in addition to email and chat. For important conversations, make video mandatory. Catch up quickly via video when returning from time off. The human interaction will improve understanding and strengthen relationships.

Practice Inclusive Meeting Norms

When some attendees are remote while others are in person, it puts remote participants at a disadvantage. In-room conversations and interactions exclude those not physically present. Prevent this by establishing inclusive meeting norms that put everyone on equal footing.

Some best practices include having everyone join individually via video rather than in a conference room, pausing for virtual participants before moving on, monitoring the chat for real-time input, and summarising action items for clarity. Treat remote attendees as equal partners.

The rise of remote work has introduced new communication challenges. But with intentional rhythms, over-communication, embracing informality, and inclusive video practices, teams can build strong collaboration despite the distance. A little extra effort to connect goes a long way when working remotely.



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