If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that it is hard to communicate effectively when everyone is working from home. Over the past year, businesses everywhere had to learn how to function remotely without a lot of warning. Zoom meetings and Slack channels quickly became our new conference rooms and water coolers. And it hasn’t always gone smoothly.
Dropped calls, missed messages, and the lack of the important non-verbal cues we get from just being in the same space can all add up to communication difficulty and frustration. With every dollar you make mattering more than ever these days, you simply can’t afford the costs of lost productivity that come with not being able to communicate effectively with your team.
4 Ways to Communicate Effectively When You Work Remotely
1. Plan regular, frequent check-ins.
Good team leaders have known the value of brief morning “stand up” meetings for a while now. However, those are hard to do when everyone is in a different place. Instead, schedule short daily check-in sessions via Zoom (or whatever video conferencing platform you’re using). Plan them at the same time each morning so that your team can make these “virtual stand-ups” part of their routine.
Beyond that, as a leader who wants to stay connected, find time each week to have quick 15-minute informal video chats with each of your team members. They essentially take the place of stopping to chat in the doorway of their office or making a run for coffee. There doesn’t have to be a reason other than “How’re you doing? What’s new? Is there anything you need?”
Video Etiquette Note: Don’t surprise people with video calls. Drop them a quick one-line email beforehand with something like “Got a few minutes soon for a quick check-in on Zoom?”
2. Stay in the moment.
We get it. It is incredibly tempting to check texts and emails while you’re in Zoom meetings! You think no one can tell, but they can.
To communicate effectively when you’re meeting online, put away the distractions and give them your undivided attention. If you wouldn’t check other devices during an in-person meeting, don’t do it in virtual meetings either.
You run the risk of not hearing what all is being said and missing important information. More than that, you send the wrong message to your team. Over time, they’ll come to the conclusion that you really aren’t all that concerned about them or the work they’re trying to do. Then, as trust erodes:
- Your work relationships will suffer.
- Their motivation will drop.
- Productivity will fall off.
- Your bottom line will eventually show it.
Meeting Tip: Back when meetings were all in-person, it wasn’t unusual for people to be able to move around. Someone might be standing at a whiteboard. Someone might get up to get coffee. Someone might walk over to a co-worker to share their notes or collaborate. Since all of those opportunities are missing in virtual worlds, isolation and video fatigue can set in quickly. Leigh Ann Rogers, founder of Better Teams, suggests having a “Time to Move!” moment in your meetings to shake things up and keep people engaged.
3. Create Virtual Rituals.
One of the intangible benefits of being in the office together was the company culture that naturally developed as different personalities and backgrounds blended together.
Think of all the team rituals that your company naturally developed to celebrate big wins and other important moments of life. Decorating someone’s workspace for their birthday. Victory laps when you closed a deal. And so on.
In a Work From Home setup, you can:
- Set up a Slack channel for random/fun topics where people can comment and connect over non-work things…the way they would in passing around the office.
- Have an “always open” video chat room where employees can drop in and chat for a few minutes with whoever else happens to be there…kind of like the old watercooler. General Assembly, an education company in New York, uses one to recreate the moments that used to happen every day around the breakroom coffee pot.
- Let team members do Silent Video Chats. Even if they’re all working quietly on their own projects, being connected to coworkers on a video chat can recreate the sense of working side by side. TheMuse points out that just the ambient sounds of people typing (and the ability to ask a quick question without scheduling a call) can be a big boost to morale.
4. Allow life to happen, and be willing to celebrate it.
Let’s face it. It’s inevitable that sooner or later someone’s cat will walk across their keyboard or their kid will do something distracting in the background. Instead of trying to make virtual meetings into stiff presentations, you can communicate effectively with your team by simply embracing the interruptions.
While your employees certainly need to do all they can to minimize disruptions, they’re bound to happen when people are having to use their kitchen table as a desk or put up with Tom the Tabby as an office mate.
Usually, a friendly “Well, hello there kitty! Glad you could join us!” or “Hey, Jackson, nice Superman cape!” can make those interruptions fun. (BTW, you do know your employees’ kids’ names, right?)
HR Services that Help You Communicate Effectively
CRS CPA understands the challenges that come from trying to communicate effectively when your team is online-only. We work with businesses, nonprofits, and farm operations of all kinds to help them run their companies more smoothly. One way is through our HR & Payroll Services. When you’re not stressed about managing the details of your team, you’re free to focus on connecting with them better.
Another resource you might find helpful is a free PDF we recently put together titled “9 Simple Accounting Mistakes That Are Costing Your Business Money.” It’s full of ideas for saving your money so you can grow your business and build your team. In fact, mistake #9 is all about communication. Get your free copy today, so you can learn how poor communication can cost you money.
Then, if you need a partner to help guide you through complex financial situations (or just day-to-day operations), give us a call.
In the meantime, hang in there. Who knows? By the time everyone is back in the office, you might just discover that your company culture has actually improved!