How to Communicate Effectively with Colleagues who Work Remotely

Published: May 2, 2023

The advent of remote work has transformed the way businesses operate. With the onset of the pandemic, many companies worldwide have been forced to take their operations online. As a result, more people are working remotely than ever before, and this trend shows no sign of slowing down. With this rise in remote work, effective communication has become more important than ever. It is not easy to communicate effectively when work colleagues are physically distant, particularly if you’re used to in-person communication. However, in this post, we will provide you with some top tips to help you communicate effectively with colleagues who work remotely.

1. Clarify your communication channels. As a business owner or team leader, agreeing on the appropriate communication channels is vital. Emails, Zoom calls, or team messaging platforms have their advantages, but which are the most useful for a remote team? It would be best if you considered the type of work and the team’s size before making this decision. For example, email may be perfect for a team of two or three, but for larger teams, a team messaging platform like Slack may be more appropriate. Just make sure that everyone agrees – it can be annoying for you, or a colleague, to receive messages via Facebook, WhatsApp, Email and Slack when a single channel can be used more effectively (and monitored appropriately by every member of the team).

2. Set communication expectations upfront.  Communication is essential in any relationship, and the same applies to remote working. As a result, it’s essential to set expectations for the team’s communication. Be clear about when and how the team should communicate, how often they should meet, and what tools to use. You can also provide a communication policy that outlines the team’s communication rules, including response time and availability. This helps to manage expectations when it comes to response times, keeps out-of-hours communication to a minimum, and again clarifies which channels are (and aren’t) appropriate for workplace communications. 

3. Be proactive in communication.  When working remotely, it is essential to be proactive in communication. In an office setting, colleagues can walk up to each other and ask questions or discuss concerns. However, when working remotely, it’s not quite that straightforward. You have to initiate the discussions, which can be a challenge if you – and they – are busy with other tasks. Set up regular check-ins with your team and consider introducing a monthly ‘water cooler’ chat, giving team members the opportunity to catch up and build their professional working relationships. This can really help to boost morale and reduce feelings of isolation, which can occur in a remote working team.  

4. Pick up the phone. Sometimes, written communication may not be enough. When you need to convey a more complex message, clarification or a quick update, picking up the phone may be the best option. Video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google meet are also helpful for when a visual element is necessary. The use of body language and facial expressions can help remote team members feel more connected to one another.

5. Don’t forget to listen! Effective communication is not just about talking, but also about listening. Taking the time to listen to your team members can help foster trust and increase collaboration. While working remotely, it can be easy to forget that your team members have other things going on in their lives. If you notice that someone seems to be quieter than usual, reach out, and see how they’re doing. Remember, effective communication isn’t just about staying informed; it’s also about building relationships.

Effective communication is just as important when you are working remotely as it is when you are working in an office-based setting.  As a business owner or team leader, it’s essential to clarify communication channels, set expectations upfront, initiate interactions, use technology appropriately, and listen carefully! By implementing these tips into your remote team management strategy, you can foster trust, increase collaboration and build a positive and professional environment for your in-house and remote workforce!