7 Ways to Improve Team Communication When Your Team Is Distributed

Improve team communication when your team is distributed
Glassdoor research shows a 460% increase in job searches for remote work. If you don’t have a distributed team yet, you might soon. So here’s our short list of the most important things managers can do to support virtual or remote employees for better performance, improved communication, and more effective collaboration.

The Future of Work continues to evolve, and the number of people who work remotely at least once per week has grown by an astounding 400% since 2010. In Robert Half’s survey report of more than 2,800 senior managers, companies in cities most receptive to hybrid work — including Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Pittsburgh — have figured out that many employees are productive no matter where they’re sitting. The next challenge? How to improve team communication when each team member sits somewhere else.

These companies have recognized the value of being an early adopter of long-term hybrid work, in the form of a more engaged and loyal workforce, and in a candidate-driven job market, offering hybrid work can be a powerful way to recruit, retain, and grow great teams. Still, managers in these companies cite the complexities of supporting a distributed workforce long-term and indicate their top challenge as “communicating effectively with team members” quickly followed by helping staff avoid burnout. 

So as teams begin to settle into what looks like permanently remote or long-term hybrid work models, it’s clear that effective communication and collaboration can no longer remain dependent on in-person interactions. As a remote-first organization since its inception, we asked our Humantelligence Culture Success Coaches for their short but most impactful tips for better supporting remote employees and for how to improve team communication, collaboration, and performance. Here’s what they said.

Top Tips for Improving Team Communication

  1. Demonstrate empathy any time the team member expresses a problem or frustration.

Use The Empathy Formula to acknowledge the team member’s feelings based on facts. Here’s the formula: “It sounds like you’re (feeling) because/about (fact). “Here’s a real-life example: “It sounds like you’re feeling overwhelmed (feeling) because of the reduced number of people on the team (fact).”

  1. Establish a new one-on-one meeting routine.

Have a scheduled meeting at least twice per week over video conference. If these meetings are currently less frequent, use the same amount of overall time divided up over more meetings. Always have your camera on and ask that the employee does the same — it’s a way to build connection.

  1. Talk to your team members every single day.

If a meeting is not scheduled, call them on the phone and talk to them. Sometimes just a quick check-in call is all it takes for some days. One of the most important elements of being an effective manager is keeping lines of communication open with your team members, especially when it has nothing to do with assignments or project statuses. Important Note: Talking to the team member in a team meeting doesn’t count, nor does exchanging texts or leaving voicemails.

  1. Demonstrate your availability.

End your meetings with your team members by encouraging the team member to contact you by phone or to request an unscheduled meeting. Answer the call if at all possible.

  1. Establish line of sight and continue to reinforce it.

Ensure work assignments, expectations, and deadlines are perfectly clear. Break down current goals into smaller chunks that are measured on a more frequent basis. Find opportunities during your one-on-ones to talk about how the specific work they do contributes to a specific team or company objective. This is not as obvious to them as it might be to you.

  1. Do not hold hybrid meetings.

Level the meeting playing field so all team members can contribute equally. This is best practice in general, and particularly important for the struggling team member. If some of the team members are in the same location and some are remote, have the onsite team members split up and join from their own computers. It equals the playing field.

  1. Leverage the Humantelligence toolkit

Use Humantelligence at least once a week. You need to deepen your understanding of the team member’s motivators and behavioral preferences to best know how to help them. Once you have a deeper understanding of his/her psychometric-based Talent Profile, use the one-on-one comparison tool to go over your and the team member’s similarities and differences, which will help the team member feel seen. Uncover how team members’ unique strengths shown on their Talent Profile can be better put to work for the benefit of the team, and then tell them. Also go over the team member’s Remote Work Tips, which offers personalized tips for wellness, productivity, and effective collaboration. 

1:1 Comparison with Manager
With the 1:1 comparison, see top alignments and differences between yourself and those you manage along with insights on how to work better together.

In the increasingly complex world of the future of work, we have to use technology and work harder as team leaders to build person-to-person connection, so that our teams feel trusted and empowered to perform. For more strategies on supporting virtual teams and for how to improve team communication, download our free resource, a guide for powering your teams from wherever they work.

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