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Working in a remote team has many advantages, but one of the things you will notice quickly is the importance of communication.

In fact, the biggest challenge for any remote team is to reduce the psychological distance between all the team members and, at the same time, create a strong bond with your colleagues, even though you have never met them.

Studies show that friendship at work can significantly improve engagement, motivation, productivity, and job satisfaction. Building ties with your colleagues will not only make everyone happier, it will also make all of you better at your jobs.

As difficult as it may sound, many remote teams around the world have achieved building strong relationships, and you can too.

Here are some effective methods to have better communication and a stronger rapport with your remote team:

1. Get lots of face time

Building relationships over text is possible, but it can be long and hazardous. Having lots of face time, through video conferencing essentially when remote, accelerates the process.

Seeing your interlocutor's facial expression and hearing their tone of voice makes all the difference in terms of communication effectiveness. Not to mention that we speak faster than we write.

Getting face time on a daily basis is important, for both team building and work efficiency. Some companies recommend being constantly on video, even if it’s only to see if you are at your desk.

2. Define the purpose of every communication tool you use

Most of the remote teams around the world tend to over-communicate in order to make up for the fact that they are not physically present in the same space. That is why they use several communication tools.

But instead of just bombarding your team with tools, you should also define the purpose of each communication tool or else there will be a lot of virtual meetings with no clear direction. And at the end, it will end up wasting everyone’s time.

iDoneThis were having weekly Google Hangouts with no clear agenda and they ended up discussing the same things they had already discussed before. So, they decided to have ‘Show and Tell’ meetings which allowed each member to showcase their work and put everyone in a proactive mode.

3.Make sure everyone is up to date and in loop

One of the best advantages of working on a remote team is the fact that you get all the space and time you need to finish your work. But it also means that sometimes you won’t know what your colleagues are doing or they might not know what you are doing.

That is why it is essential to have a common communication hub through which all of the members can stay current about what’s happening, share their opinions, and none of them would ever be out of the loop.

The team at Stripe shares their internal emails to maintain email transparency and keep everyone in the loop. With over 428 email lists, they make sure that their employees are not bombarded with unnecessary emails.

4. Use emojis and gifs to make sure your message is getting across the right way

It is not always easy to get your message across the right way via text, especially when we use humor or irony. If you are not already familiar with your interlocutor, they might misunderstand your message or even get offended by it.

Using emojis and gifs guarantees that your message is getting across in the way you intended, plus they are fun!

Buffer employees use HipChat to communicate and when they do, they make sure to use a lot of emojis, gifs, and videos to get their message across.

5. Use a code word for not getting disturbed while you work

When you work in a traditional office, you can see when your other team members are busy or focused on their work, and you know not to disturb them.

But knowing when a co-worker is busy on a remote team is not that obvious. Also, stating that ‘you are busy with other work’ could come off as rude. Instead, you can come up with a code word. Whenever a team member says that code word, you will know that they are busy working on something.

6. Make space for constructive feedback

Sometimes you have to talk about upsetting issues, whether you are working remotely or not. Communicate feedback and critics on teammates’ work without ruining the relationships you took time building is very subtle.

One of the best ways to give constructive feedback for everyone is to organize collective feedback meetings on a weekly or monthly basis. All participants will come ready to listen to critics and to argument their work, for the common good, ideally doing so detaching themselves from the work they have accomplished in order not to take the criticism too personally.

CloudPeeps has monthly pair calls where they team up members into pairs who then share feedback with each other.

7. Create a separate space for water cooler chat

When working in remote teams, we sometimes forget that our team members have lives outside their job too. It’s important to have water cooler chat with everyone to understand your team members better and know what’s going on in their lives.

Github has a toast forum where employees talk about general things and post their accomplishments, the other employees, obviously, toast them.

Made from an awesome GitHub presentation showcasing their Toast Forum

8. Come up with a team meeting routine

Conducting regular team meetings at a common time that includes all team members can do wonders. It can help brainstorm ideas and tackle problems together, and at the same time, it makes you feel closer to your teammates and you realize they aren’t really as far as would you think.

Scheduling weekly or daily meetings this way will give everyone the feeling that they are part of the team and involved in your projects. It’s also a good idea to give these meetings a precise agenda and purpose.

Groove team members have daily standup meetings every weekday so that everyone is accountable and are synced together.

9. Use asynchronous communication first

When we encounter an issue or face a roadblock, we are always eager to overcome it as quickly as possible. That means calling for help right away.

However, the person that is susceptible to help you might be deep in work on something else, and therefore unavailable.

In this case, it is best to start by explaining the issue via an asynchronous communication channel first. This will do two things:

  • Make you really think about the issue because you have to write it down
  • Allow the other person to consider the issue when it bests suits them

This not only makes you more patient, but when you are blocked, offers you time to deal with something else.

In Summary

Aggregating all these little tips will help you in your remote team communication. Although you are at the best place to decide whether to set written rules in your team, I also recommend tweaking with these tips according to your own experience and preferences.

Ultimately, your willingness to improve remote communication will be the most important factor, so start proposing changes in the way your team communicates. The sooner you implement it, the sooner you will see the results.

Mattias Le Cren
Content marketing & growth hacking advocate. I'm heavily into tech and football. Ping me on twitter: @lecrenm
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