Managing distributed teams is a very modern problem. Thanks to the ubiquity of the internet, team members can live and work almost anywhere in the world and still virtually come together to collaborate. When managing distributed teams, communication and culture have a symbiotic relationship; strong communication lays the foundation for a strong culture, but without a sustainable culture, communication channels fall apart.
As the world of work continues to evolve, the number of distributed teams is rising. According to a recent economic report by Upwork, 41.8% of Americans were still working remotely as of late 2020, with projections showing that by 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be virtual workers. With such a significant increase in distributed teams, it’s vital that managers take steps to ensure a strong culture is in place in order to effectively manage and lead this new way of working—a feat that will be impossible without prioritizing communication.
If you work with a distributed team, you’re likely familiar with the challenges remote workers contend with on a daily basis. From time zone differences to the lack of nonverbal cues, it can be difficult to keep everyone on the same page. But with the right strategies in place, you can ensure that your team is communicating and collaborating effectively.
Effective communication is the backbone of any successful team, but it can be especially challenging for distributed teams. One of the most important steps in ensuring effective communication is selecting the right tools and providing training to ensure that everyone is proficient in using them. This means assessing the team’s communication needs, taking into account factors such as team size, task types, and geographical distribution, and aligning on a set of tools that will serve those needs.
The rise of remote and hybrid teams has led to an abundance of communication tools. However, with so many options available, it can be easy for team members to get overwhelmed and for communication to become scattered across multiple platforms, leading to confusion, delays, and missed messages. To combat this, it’s smart to limit the number of tools you have your team use on a daily basis. There is no reason to use both Slack and Microsoft Teams, for instance; just pick the platform that best serves your needs, and make sure everyone onboards successfully.
It’s also important to keep in mind that different tools serve different purposes. For example, while email may be great for sending documents and longer, more formal messages, instant messaging or video conferencing may be better for real-time conversations. By understanding the strengths and limitations of different tools, you can make informed decisions on which ones to use, and when. It’s also vital that you let your employees know specifically which communication platforms to use for the different types of communication. If you want video conferencing to happen on one app and instant messaging on another, ensure you communicate this to them clearly. This can help to ensure that communication within the team is smooth and efficient, and that important information doesn’t fall through the cracks.
Utilizing both asynchronous and synchronous communication is an important strategy for effective communication within a distributed team. Asynchronous communication, such as email or chat messages, allows team members to communicate and collaborate on their own schedule. This is especially useful for team members working in different time zones, or for those who may have conflicting schedules. Synchronous communication, such as video conferencing or phone calls, allows for real-time conversations and can be especially useful for important or time-sensitive discussions.
Both types of communication have their own benefits, and it’s important to use them accordingly. Finding a balance between the two can help teams to communicate effectively, regardless of time zones or schedules.
Leadership plays a vital role in the success of a distributed team. Not only do they set the tone and direction of the team, but they also have the power to create a culture where communication and collaboration thrive. Without buy-in from leadership, it can be difficult for team members to fully engage and find their groove, so to speak, leading to miscommunication, delays, and a lack of productivity.
However, when leaders are fully invested in the success of the team, they can inspire buy-in from their employees. This is particularly important when it comes to managing distributed teams, as effective communication is key to keeping everyone on the same page. By actively promoting open and transparent communication, leaders can create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. Additionally, by fostering a positive team culture through remote team-building activities and encouraging team members to socialize and bond, leaders can create a working environment that team members actually want to stick around for long-term.
All of your team communication doesn’t need to be work-related. Incorporating fun and light-hearted activities can do wonders for building relationships and fostering effective communication within a distributed team. When team members feel comfortable with one another, they are more likely to feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts and ideas, leading to better collaboration and increased productivity.
There are several ways to bring this type of atmosphere to your team. Incorporating remote team-building activities or encouraging team members to share their personal interests during meetings can help team members get to know one another on a personal level and foster a sense of camaraderie. Additionally, creating a specific place for informal conversations or encouraging the use of emojis and gifs in communication can also help to break down barriers and promote more open and casual communication. By making the team’s communication a bit more fun and relaxed, team members will feel more comfortable and better equipped to communicate effectively.
Distributed teams are growing in prevalence, and many companies rely on technology to keep their employees connected. While this type of team structure can be beneficial in many ways, it does create communication issues due to technology limitations, lack of nonverbal cues, and in some cases, dramatic time zone differences. If teams struggle to communicate, they also struggle to build a positive culture. That’s why strong communication is essential for distributed teams to succeed.
At MindGoal, we recognize the importance of strong communication for distributed teams. We offer a wide range of services to help teams of all shapes and sizes become the best versions of themselves. First, our team of experts helps you determine your company’s values, and then we create tailored strategies and activities that promote them. As a result of our efforts, you can expect to see an increase in employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity. Contact MindGoal today for a free consultation and learn how we can help!
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