Navigating Communication Hurdles In Remote Work: A Manager’s Ultimate Guide

Manavi Agarwal

Last Updated: December 29, 2023
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In the ever-evolving landscape of remote and hybrid work, effective communication turns a group of individuals into a powerhouse team. Recent reports spill the tea on managers scoring a seven out of ten for navigating the tricky terrain of hybrid teams. But, here’s the plot twist – a whopping 30% are stuck in the frustration zone due to communication hiccups. In this era of digital connectivity, poor communication not only hinders productivity but also dampens morale. As a manager, fostering clear and consistent communication is not just a managerial duty—it’s a critical imperative. We’re here to unravel the challenges and hand you the tools to transform your team into a communication dream team. Let’s explore the challenges and delve into practical techniques to enhance communication and keep your team firing on all cylinders.

communication in the workplace

Set Expectations Upfront

In the confusion of remote communication, setting expectations becomes the North Star guiding your team. A survey by Harvard Business Review found that 67% of remote workers feel that establishing clear communication norms is crucial for team success. The incessant stream of emails, Slacks, and phone calls can overwhelm. Aligning with your team on the optimal use of these communication platforms is essential. Formal correspondence finds its home in emails, while instant messaging apps like MS Teams or Slack handle immediate needs and quick clarifications. By establishing these norms, you significantly reduce communication friction. The key is consistency—stick to the standards you set and gently remind others to do the same. This simple act ensures a harmonious flow of communication, enhancing clarity and productivity within the team.

  • Define Communication Channels: Clearly outline when to use email for formal correspondence and when to utilise instant messaging apps for quick queries. Align with your team on the optimal use of each channel.
  • Consistency is Key: Stick to the communication standards set. Gently remind team members to adhere to the established norms, reducing confusion and maintaining a harmonious flow of communication.
  • Regularly Reinforce Norms: Conduct periodic check-ins to ensure that everyone is consistently following the communication norms. Address any deviations and reinforce the importance of sticking to the established standards.
  • Provide Clarity on Urgency: Clearly communicate the urgency level associated with each communication channel. This helps in managing expectations and ensures that immediate needs are addressed promptly.

Create A “Clarity Canvas”

A new project can feel like navigating an unknown area, but a “clarity canvas” acts as your compass. This collaborative document succinctly outlines project goals, individual responsibilities, process instructions, and key deadlines. Crafted together by the entire team, this canvas becomes a touchstone, a shared reservoir of information that averts confusion and minimises unnecessary back-and-forths. It’s not just a document; it’s a map that guides everyone on the same journey. The Project Management Institute reports that projects with clearly defined goals are 44% more likely to be successful. By addressing comprehension gaps in real-time during the canvas creation phase, you lay a robust foundation for process adherence and knowledge dissemination, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

  • Collaborative Creation: Involve the entire team in crafting the “clarity canvas.” This ensures real-time alignment and addresses comprehension gaps during the creation phase.
  • Succinctly Outline Goals: Clearly define project goals, individual responsibilities, process instructions, and key deadlines in the “clarity canvas.” Keep the information concise and easy to reference.
  • Regular Updates: Periodically revisit and update the “clarity canvas” as the project progresses. This helps in keeping everyone on the same page and ensures that any changes in goals or deadlines are communicated effectively.
  • Accessible Central Hub: Designate a centralised location, whether on a shared drive or collaboration platform, where the “clarity canvas” is easily accessible to all team members.

Make Everything Accessible

Accessibility is the cornerstone of effective remote collaboration. In the digital realm, meticulous records are your team’s archives. Every decision made, meeting minute recorded, and project status updated needs a home—a centralised digital location accessible to all. Imagine this space as a library where every team member, whether remote or in-office, can peruse the same books. To ensure seamless navigation through this library, set standards for document storage and information retrieval. If your organisation uses multiple cloud storage platforms, establish rules around what goes where. Consistency is key—every team member should know where to find what they need, eliminating unnecessary confusion and streamlining workflows.

  • Centralised Digital Repository: Establish a centralised digital location accessible to all team members. This repository should house meticulous records of decisions made, meeting minutes, and project statuses.
  • Document Storage Standards: Set clear standards for document storage. Define where documents should be stored, ensuring easy retrieval by all team members.
  • Access Guidelines: Provide guidelines on sharing settings for documents. Ensure that all team members understand how to access information easily.
  • Consistent Records: Maintain consistent and meticulous records to avoid confusion. Regularly update the repository with relevant information to keep everyone informed.

communication in the workplace

Establish Office Hours

In the vastness of remote work, creating virtual “office hours” is akin to leaving your office door open. A survey by Owl Labs reveals that 63% of remote workers prefer managers who maintain a consistent schedule, including regular office hours. This dedicated time each week makes you readily accessible via chat, phone, or video call, providing a virtual open door for both in-office and remote employees. There’s no need for a specific agenda during this period; it’s a time to listen empathetically to your staff and address their concerns. Think of it as a watercooler moment, a casual chat that fosters connections with your direct reports. By offering equal opportunity for facetime, you bridge the gap between physical and virtual presence, making communication more personal and effective.

  • Consistent Schedule: Set a consistent schedule for “office hours” each week. This predictability helps team members plan when they can connect with you.
  • Virtual Open Door: Emphasise that “office hours” serve as a virtual open door. Encourage team members to reach out during this time for any concerns or questions.
  • Equal Accessibility: Ensure that both in-office and remote employees have equal access to “office hours.” Use various communication channels to facilitate connections.
  • Empathetic Listening: During “office hours,” focus on listening empathetically to your staff. Be fully present and address their needs, fostering open communication.

Conduct Regular Debriefs

Amidst the noise of company announcements, debrief meetings act as a clearinghouse. These sessions with your team provide an opportunity to evaluate their understanding and acceptance of the announcements. It’s a chance to clarify any questions and ensure that everyone is on the same page. As a manager, you are the mediator of top-level messages to your team. These debriefs offer insight into how well your people understand and accept the announcements, allowing you to address any concerns and maintain a cohesive team culture.

  • Timely Meetings: Schedule debrief meetings promptly after important company announcements. This ensures that information is fresh, and any questions or concerns can be addressed immediately.
  • Evaluate Understanding: Use debrief meetings to evaluate how well your team understands and accepts announcements. Clarify any points of confusion and ensure alignment.
  • Clarification Opportunity: Debrief meetings provide an opportunity to clarify any questions and ensure that everyone interprets top-level messages consistently.
  • Team Cohesion: These meetings contribute to team cohesion by creating a shared understanding of company updates and fostering open communication among team members.

Bring Everyone Together

Team cohesion is the heartbeat of a successful remote or hybrid work setup. Organising monthly team-building activities becomes the thread that weaves individual contributors into a cohesive unit. Whether in-person or virtual, these activities go beyond breaking down hierarchical or interpersonal barriers—they forge genuine connections among team members. The camaraderie built during team-building activities becomes the glue that holds your team together, fostering a culture of transparency and trust. By incorporating these organised interactions, you create an environment where ideas flow freely, barriers dissolve, and communication becomes a natural extension of team dynamics.

  • Monthly Activities: Organise monthly team-building activities to foster stronger bonds. These activities can be in-person or virtual, focusing on building genuine connections.
  • Break Down Barriers: Team-building activities break down hierarchical or interpersonal barriers. They create a more cohesive team culture by fostering camaraderie.
  • Cohesive Team Dynamics: Encourage participation in team-building activities to create a sense of belonging. Activities become the glue that holds the team together, promoting transparency and trust.
  • Organised Interactions: Monthly activities serve as organised interactions that facilitate open communication. They create an environment where ideas flow freely among team members.

communication in the workplace

Check In Periodically

In the realm of remote work, silence doesn’t necessarily indicate satisfaction. Periodic check-ins become the pulse check for your team’s well-being. Conduct anonymous surveys every month to gauge what communication and collaboration activities resonate with your team. These surveys act as a thermometer, measuring the effectiveness of implemented plans and nurturing an open communication culture. The insights gleaned from these surveys provide a platform for team members to articulate preferences and concerns. The subsequent discussions from these check-ins and feedback loops not only address the team’s evolving needs but also foster a culture of open communication and procedural transparency.

  • Monthly Anonymous Surveys: Conduct anonymous surveys every month to gauge team preferences and measure the effectiveness of communication activities.
  • Gauge Resonance: Use surveys to gauge which communication and collaboration activities resonate with the team. Collect insights on what is working well and what needs improvement.
  • Feedback Loop: Establish a feedback loop by interpreting survey results in team discussions. Address concerns and preferences to foster a culture of open communication.
  • Iterative Improvement: Fine-tune communication approaches based on survey feedback each quarter. This iterative process ensures that communication strategies remain responsive to the team’s evolving needs.

Mastering Communication In The Hybrid Landscape

Communication is the cornerstone of effective management, especially in the remote and hybrid landscape. Embrace new technologies, set clear expectations, and prioritise accessibility. As a manager, you have the power to redefine communication norms, fostering a proactive and responsive team culture. In this ever-changing professional landscape, your role as a communicator is paramount. So, adapt, innovate, and lead your team into a future where clear communication reigns supreme.

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