Communicating effectively with a remote team has always been one of the biggest challenges of moving to an office-less culture of work.
A lot of the nuance of face to face conversations can be lost over email. Also, how do you build an office culture when you don’t have an office?
Venngage, like a lot of tech companies, has a flexible remote work policy. In fact, 13% of our employees work remotely full time, with many more dialling in for weeks or months at a time.
Moving to a remote working structure can seem daunting at first, but if you follow our 10 simple tips for effective communication with a remote team you’re sure to see the benefits.
We’ve also included templates to help you communicate effectively with your team.
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- Be prepared to adapt to the challenges of remote work
- Ensure regular check ins with your remote team
- Invest in collaborative software and communication technology
- Use diagrams and visuals to ensure processes are fully understood
- Create an office culture online
- Present pitches and ideas visually
- Avoid boring text documents by using pictures and visuals
- Set clear deadlines and outline expectations
- Set up communications guidelines
- Trust your staff
1. Be prepared to adapt to the challenges of remote work
Remote work comes with its own set of challenges. Especially if you’ve only ever worked in “in office” roles, adapting to setting your own schedule, moving your communications digital, and learning that you can’t actually be very productive from bed can be difficult.
But if you’re aware of the difficulties you’ll be more prepared to face them.
Use a mind map template to tackle the obstacles remote work can throw up
Before your team transitions to remote work, think about what obstacles you might face. Consider things like communication, technical difficulties, procrastination, and work life balance. It can be handing to note these obstacles down in a mind map, to help you develop solutions.
It’s also important to ensure you effectively communicate any changes within your team. If you’re switching to fully remote work, send your employees a formal letter of the change, on a company letterhead.
You may also want to create a policy document. At Venngage we use infographics to communicate our policies! A simple Q&A format can help make sure that your policies are fully understood by the team.
2. Ensure regular check-ins with your remote team
Remote working can be lonely. It’s important to regularly check in with your team.
At Venngage we have video meetings using Google Hangouts to go through work, ideas, and just to catch up. We plan two meetings a week, but are always open to adhoc calls if somebody wants to run some ideas through.
Collaboration still exists in our teams – it just looks a little bit different!
As well as regular video meetings, we have a very active Slack board. With channels for everything from the #Content-Team to #Great-music, we talk to each other every single day.
Checking in isn’t just good for morale either. By checking in on a regular basis you can touch base on any current or potential roadblocks before they become an issue.
Use a daily activity report template to track progress
A daily activity report can make it easier to track daily check-ins. That way, you can track problems and progress that may otherwise go unnoticed or fall to the wayside in a remote setting.
3. Invest in collaborative software and communication technology
If some of your best ideas come from throwing things around with your team, remote working might seem like a disaster for you. But with good collaborative software you can recreate that “in office” experience.
At Venngage we use a combination of Slack for messages and Google Hangouts for video calls. Almost on a daily basis somebody will message the shared Slack channel saying “I have an idea, what do you think?”
Shared software can be the secret to good collaboration
We also make use of shared softwares that make our job easier. A tool like Buzzstream helps us coordinate email campaigns, and Google Docs to help us work together on blog posts.
We also make use of the Venngage Teams feature which allows our individual accounts access to shared presentations and documents. Being able to work collaboratively as a Content Team on one presentation means our weekly meeting is so much smoother. No more clicking through individual slide decks!
Clearly explain collaboration processes with with flow diagram
When transitioning to a new remote structure, collaboration processes can be difficult to adopt. Ensure that your entire team understands how, when, and why collaboration should be used by creating a simple flow diagram.
A flow diagram is great for outlining all of the variables in a situation, and creating a flow diagram visual is easier than having to explain the process over and over again.
4. Use diagrams and visuals to ensure processes are fully understood
When I’m trying to explain a process or an idea, I wave my hands about a lot. Sometimes I doodle on a piece of paper. And I know if my explanation is making sense by checking the persons reaction.
How does this translate to remote work?
A diagram can be the solution. Diagrams are designed to be easy to understand, and can be a great way to communicate difficult processes or ideas.
A simple process diagram, like the one below, can be shared with your remote team to make sure that processes are followed consistently. Using simple icons and short sentences, you can explain things simply.
Having a one page visual is great too because you can send it to new staff as part of their on boarding process too. This saves time for yourself in the long run.
5. Create an office culture online
If your office went full time remote, what would you miss the most? The people, most likely.
Company culture is a huge contributor to good work environments. A lot of that culture is formed in how people treat each other. This could mean a quick chat whilst making coffee or after work happy hour.
Employees like to feel valued.
Celebrate your employees with an employee engagement infographic
You don’t have to come up with big prizes or fancy awards to show your employees that you value them. A simple celebratory infographic, shared with the entire team, can be a great way to show you appreciate their hard work.
Use an employee of the month template, like the one below, as a quick and easy celebration:
But outside of celebrating employees, how do you create an office culture when you’re all working remotely?
Content Marketer Ryan McCready has been working remotely for Venngage for 6 years. His advice?
“Over communicate with your coworkers while you’re working remotely. Don’t be afraid to talk about everything that you would at the office, and more. Share pictures of your lunch, your dogs, or your kids. People are going to be really looking for a human connection after a few days. ”
Bring the office online with digital hangouts and events
Creating fun online activities can be a way to bring office culture to your entire staff too. Quizzes, polls, even just discussions about the latest binge-worthy TV show is enough. Work chat doesn’t need to be exclusively about work.
At Venngage, we host a Virtual Trivia night so that all of our employees can play along no matter where in the world they’re located.
A simple invitation can be quickly created to let employees know about your digital events.
6. Present pitches and ideas visually
Presenting ideas in person is so much more than just a slide deck. The energy in the room, the confidence in your voice, and even how many people are present can make a huge difference to how your presentation is received.
But when you’re presenting online? It’s harder to convey that energy.
Instead, focus on beautifully designed, eye catching slides. Pick a crisp layout with a strong call to action, simple color schemes, and diagrams and icons.
Encourage your remote team to create presentations to pitch ideas or feedback on results too.
7. Avoid boring text documents by using pictures and visuals
Nobody likes reading a wall of text at the best of times. But when you’re working remotely, it can be extra easy to skim.
Instead ensure to make sure all documents are visual and engaging. Make use of headers, pops of color, images, and even infographics.
A well placed icon or splash of color can elevate your document, and make people want to read it. But don’t go overboard – stick to a small color palette (black, white, and two other colors max), and make sure you leave plenty of white space around the images.
Use a template to create engaging reports and plans
A lot of the time it’s easier to revert to writing a Word Doc report, simply because you don’t have design experience or the confidence to design a report yourself.
But there are plenty of professionally designed templates that you can use to make your information eye-catching.
The project plan below could have easily been a text document, but by adding photos, fonts, colors, and a background texture the report is instantly elevated.
The same thing goes for any numbers or data you need to present. Instead of just a table on a slide, why not visualize some of that information in charts, graphs, or infographics. Creating an infographic might sound complicated, but visualizing data can be a really easy way to build engagement with your readers.
8. Set clear deadlines and outline expectations
When working remotely it’s very easy to be lured into procrastination. Unless you have a dedicated in-house office, you’re probably working from your bedroom, kitchen, or living room.
Avoid possible distractions by setting very clear deadlines and expectations of remote work. Check in frequently to make sure these deadlines are being met.
At Venngage, unless otherwise stated, we have the expectation that you’ll be online, with good internet connection, and available throughout office hours when you choose to work remotely. This expectation helps people stay accountable.
One expectation that you should also set is clear office hours. Working from home doesn’t mean working all hours. Encourage your team to log off at the end of the day, and lead by example by not answering messages out of office hours.
Create an expectation checklist for remote workers or projects
Once you’ve agreed on the expectations for remote workers, why not create a visually appealing check list that you and the remote team can all refer to for reference?
The checklist doesn’t have to be complicated, but you can use colors and icons to help differentiate different line items by importance or topic.
Plan your projects thoroughly to keep your remote team on track
With remote teams, often people will be working in different time zones. Planning your campaign or project thoroughly can help keep your employees on track.
A planning diagram, flow chart, or even a project plan report can all be used to help identify all of the milestones that need to be hit for a successful execution.
9. Set up communications guidelines
Another key element of working remotely is having clear guidelines on communication. Your guidelines don’t have to be difficult. Just confirm what sort of communication is appropriate and when.
For example, you could use Slack for general chatting but ask that all decisions or official matters are noted by email. You might ask for messages to only be sent in office hours, and emergency communication to be via phone.
You should also set guidelines of what is and isn’t appropriate relating to profanity, explicit language, and subject topics.
Create an employee handbook that outlines expectations for your team
Note these guidelines in your employee handbook when new employees start the company.
10. Trust your staff
You can’t work effectively with a remote team unless you trust your team.
Remote workers aren’t present in the office, so it can be much harder to check in on an ad hoc basis. Micromanaging via email is frustrating for everybody involved.
“I’m able to do my job without feeling like someone is looking over my shoulder every minute of the day. That is because I have built a level of trust with my coworkers and managers. If you work in a creative field like we do, you really need to step back and let your team be creative.”
Instead, hire people that you can trust to get the job done and allow them room to do their work. Just because you can’t see them working, doesn’t mean that they aren’t working.
Working remotely can be an incredibly rewarding experience for both the remote teams and the managers. Follow these tips to make the most of that experience and happy working!
More resources for communicating with a remote team:
Join Venngage’s CEO, Eugene Woo, to learn how you can design impactful infographics that will help maintain trust, increase productivity and inspire action in your team.