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How to Build Strong Communication with Remote Work Teams

By Brad Hughes

  • March 10, 2020
  • 4 min. read

Hiring remote professionals is top of mind for many executives looking to expand competencies rapidly. More than just a trend, though, remote work is reshaping the workplace.

As technology enables us to perform our work duties from anywhere in the world, employees and contractors enjoy a better work-life balance and increased productivity. Employers see huge savings on equipment, higher employee retention, and an increased talent pool. What’s not to love?

However, it takes time to embrace the workplace of the future. One of the biggest and most obvious changes will be in how teams communicate. Establishing systems and implementing best practices for communication sets your remote teams up for success.

Best Practices for Managers of Remote Teams

Be Purposeful with Communication

Remote collaboration forces you to consider which mode of communication best fits the task. For example, live meetings are key for building trust. Email is great for sending information, but not as effective for collaboration. When you need to bounce ideas around, schedule a call. To maximize productivity, give live meetings (videos and calls) both an agenda and a time limit.

Carve Out Time

Don’t be the manager that relegates remote teams “out of sight out of mind.” Schedule regular 1-on-1 meetings to discuss project deliverables, progress, and concerns. Review documents promptly and respond quickly to requests for input. Feedback will be key to ensure remote team members are feeling comfortable and are moving projects forward in the intended direction. One of the worst things you can do is abdicate responsibility rather than to delegate it. No one likes a manager that simply pushes off tasks to lighten their load and then goes radio silent once the work is handed over!

Be Flexible

Working with people across the country gives you access to the best talent, regardless of location. If possible, offer flexible scheduling in your remote work policy and consider their timezone when scheduling meetings.

Another way to make your meetings more friendly to remote team members is to video or audio record them or use a transcription app like Otter. This allows remote team members to access the meeting later if they can’t attend in real-time.

Preferences Matter

Certain people prefer certain ways of communication and aligning preferences can alleviate tension. Be sure to ask your remote workers what they prefer (i.e., phone, email, chat, text) for specific situations and balance this with your preferences as a manager. If a video call causes you undue stress to set up and host, maybe a phone call will be a better fit for you and your team. Technology should enable your interactions to go more smoothly rather than cause you to waste time with technical difficulties and connection issues. However, before settling on a simple phone call and email, explore user-friendly tools and you may find a new favorite alternative that also helps streamline your workflow.

Leverage the Best Tools for Remote Work Communication

Along with the growing trend toward remote work and freelancing comes a whole new breed of tools that make it easy to stay in the loop–anywhere, anytime. Here are some of our favorites:

Team Collaboration

Slack and Microsoft Teams are frontrunners when it comes to team collaboration tools. With apps for desktop and mobile, these teamwork hubs function as a robust group chat. The advantage is that you can segment and organize your conversations using channels. Private messaging, threads, document sharing, emojis, and more make Slack a go-to for many geographically distributed organizations. Team conversations and brainstorming sessions remain seamless regardless of whether your team works asynchronously across time zones or in real-time. Chats remain stored, backed up, and easily searchable to enable teams to stay connected and informed.

Project Management

Organize your workflow, assign to-do lists and easily see who’s working on what. There are dozens of project management tools available that allow you to do all this and more. The marketplace ranges from free and low-cost solutions like Basecamp and Trello, to enterprise options like Asana and Jira. Other workflow tools like XCM are designed specifically with tax preparers and accountants in mind.

Cloud Storage & File Sharing

Accountants often send large files; however, most email services have an attachment size limit of 25mb or less. Sometimes, you need to go back and look at an older version of a document or perhaps you just need a single, secure place to store everything so it’s easy to find. Cloud storage solves these problems and more. Platforms like Box, ShareFile, Google Docs, and Dropbox let your firm store, sync, and share files, and also collaborate remotely. If your organization already uses Microsoft Office, OneDrive could be a natural fit.

Video Conferencing

Tone and body language are still so important for business relationships. Live video meetings will help you start new projects on the right foot. Depending on your company’s tech suite, you may already have a video conferencing platform in place–if so, great! If not, you have plenty of options available to you. GoToMeeting and Zoom both allow you to share your screen, record audio and video, invite multiple participants, and more, plus impressive video quality.

Secure Password Sharing

With a password manager such as LastPass, 1Pass or DashLane, you can finally stop manually storing your passwords in a spreadsheet. Easily and securely share access to tools and resources, making it simple for team members to login from anywhere, and retain complete control over who has access to what.

With some communication guidelines in place and the support of remote tools at your fingertips, you’ll be on the right path to developing happy, productive and aligned remote teams.

Does your firm have a remote policy in place? Read here for tips on developing clear and effective standards for remote teams.

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