Insightful takes on scaling your business

Foolproof tips to communicate better with your remote workforce

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Yessi Bello Perez
Story by
Yessi Bello Perez

Senior Writer, Growth QuartersYessi leads the writing efforts at TNW’s Growth Quarters. Yessi leads the writing efforts at TNW’s Growth Quarters.

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It’s 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic has ground the world to a halt.

Your workforce — once office based — is now fully remote and you find yourself spending more time speaking to your employees and colleagues online.

You’re thankful for technology. It allows you to keep your business running, and interact with your workers and customers.

[Read: 4 things all managers should avoid doing during the coronavirus pandemic]

But — and this is a big but — you’re struggling to communicate effectively because the nuance of the offline world is missing online.

Sound familiar? We’ve spoken to several leaders to get their top communication tips.

Phone, routine, and cross-team communication

Ashleigh Otter, head of staff at Perlego, an online learning library, prioritizes phone time, routine, and cross-team communication:

“Pick up the phone, it breaks the silence of working from home and often makes the conversation much smoother,” she says.

Building a routine and having regular, shorter catch ups with team members at the same time can also help you set the flow the day.

In the longer term, it’s a good idea to send regular weekly updates about what different teams have been working on and achieved.

This, she adds, will help everyone understand the wider business.

Individuals vs wider business

Ben Gateley, the CEO and co-founder of CharlieHR, an HR software company servicing startups and small businesses, shared some insight about how best to communicate one-on-one and teams.

Understanding their context and adapting your communication style is key to being a great people manager.

Everyone is different in how they’d like to be managed. Some like to be encouraged regularly, others prefer to be pushed, some like to be given as much autonomy as possible.

Building up that context in a physical office is much easier — but being able to understand this context when working remotely is even more important.

“When your team is remote the differences in this context vary much more widely than when everyone is in the office,” he says, noting how everyone‘s personal situation is different. “You need to be empathetic to this context and change your comms style accordingly. Some will want to speak often and share lots.”

“Some will find it hard to speak via video call and would prefer a phone call or email. Flexibility and agility in favor of the individual is what is needed. If in doubt, ask your team how they want to communicate with you when they’re working from home,” Gateley adds.

[Read: The weirdo’s guide to WFH productivity: Sanity shower, squats, and snacks]

Clarity is essential, especially when you’re working remotely as there’s more room for misinterpretation.

“Make sure the message is polished and encompasses everything you want to say as clearly as possible,” he notes.

You should, Gateley adds, be prepared to repeat yourself: “Take that clear message and share it often. Take any opportunity where it’s relevant to return to the message. When you’re tired of saying it, is probably when you can be sure most people have taken it in.”

Once your message is clear and you’re willing to share it, make sure you deliver it in a calm manner.

“Not being in the office you lose a lot of the energy you can provide your team in person through enthusiasm and body language. You’re also not able to chat individually to people as much on the way to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Default to a calm leadership style remotely — communicating clearly and often.”

Planning

Calum Brannan, the founder of Howsy, a proptech startup, also chimed in.

He said it was important to communicate with outcomes in mind and think about how you can support others with their goals and objectives.

Your role as a manager or team leader is also to help your colleagues get perspective and share ideas.

A manager’s role can also transcend work, though.

“Offer to help with something not related to your direct working relationship. Invest in time to talk off-topic or personally,” Brannan concludes.

Key takeaways

It’s possible that you are already used to dealing with a remote workforce, if so, use this time to really think about how you communicate with your colleagues and refine this further.

If working from home is new to you, don’t be disheartened if communication is a little off at the beginning, but work hard to ensure all team members are aligned.

Communication is key to success, and although it may come naturally to some of us, it’s important to pay attention and establish adequate channels: It’ll pay off in the long term!

Published April 22, 2020 — 09:57 UTC

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