The evolution of modern communications has changed the way we work and the number of remote workers in the UK has increased by 20% in the last decade. Across the globe, this figure has risen 159% since 2005.
There’s a lot to like about flexible working. You can sit in on conference calls in your PJs, graze all day long, and put a load of washing on while chatting to your boss on WhatsApp. Flexible working is also beneficial for businesses: more home workers means less office space is required, which reduces overheads exponentially.
It’s not all plain sailing, however. Managing remote teams can often be a challenge. If someone misses a deadline, it’s a lot harder to chase them up when they work overseas and are ignoring your emails. In fact, communication issues are one of the main problems with managing remote teams, as we are about to explore.
Digital communications are often open to misinterpretation. We tend to rely on body language clues when communicating in person, but this isn’t an option when you chat on the phone or discuss an order via email. With so many digital channels to manage, it’s not surprising that information is sometimes scrambled or lost in the ether, causing unnecessary confusion.
Effective collaboration can be a huge challenge when managing remote teams. Confusion and misinterpretation can lead to anxiety, poor morale, a lack of engagement and productivity, and zero innovation.
To avoid frustration and conflict, you need to set rules and explore more effective ways to collaborate.
Technology is both a blessing and a curse. Thanks to emails and IMs, we can talk to our colleagues all day and all night. But, let’s be honest, who wants to? Without boundaries, communications can easily intrude into personal time, so it’s important to set clear rules about when communications can be sent and when replies are expected.
For example, let your teams know that emails, IMs, and phone calls are not welcome after working hours unless it’s an emergency.
Establish set communication channels
Decide as a team what communication channels are most appropriate. Some remote teams utilise platforms like Slack whereas others use WhatsApp. If you prefer to reply in your own time, then email is a better option.
Pay attention to individual styles of communication
Make a note of how different people communicate. Some people have zero sense of humour and are easily offended by jokey banter whereas others don’t mind being copied in on silly memes.
Learn to communicate clearly
Corporate-speak should be avoided at all costs. Telling an employee to “think outside the box” isn’t helpful in the slightest. Give them clear instructions on what you need them to do. Never make the assumption that others know what your abbreviations mean. When remote workers have nothing to go on but a terse email, you can’t blame them if they misunderstand you.
Remember, less isn’t more when you are explaining something via email or IM. Be as clear as you can be and be prepared to explain further if necessary.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of micromanaging people when they work remotely. We’ve all been there. We send an email and when no reply is forthcoming immediately, we follow it up with a text message and then a phone call.
Give people a break! Choose the most suitable communication channel for your message. If it’s not urgent, email. If you need a timely reply, phone them.
Let someone know when they don’t need to respond (for example, if they have been copied in for information purposes only).
Don’t CC every man and his dog
Be sensible about copying people in on communications. Too often, multiple recipients are needlessly copied into an email when only one person actually needs to see it. All this does is provoke annoyance when people are forced to read umpteen irrelevant emails.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Digital communication channels are a godsend for shy, introverted types. These people are often intimidated in in-person meetings whereas they are more likely to speak out in a group chat online.
Encourage team spirit
It’s important that you make remote workers feel a part of the wider team. Give each person their own avatar for communications channels. Acknowledge birthdays with e-cards and organise social gatherings online if you can’t get together in real life.
Here at Ink Elves, managing a remote team is the norm and we have learned to make it work for us. For some businesses, it makes sense to hire remote workers to produce content for their brand, but it isn’t easy managing freelancers. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to deal with remote workers, you are much better off outsourcing your content creation to a team like us.
We can deal with all the headaches while you worry about running your business. Doesn’t that sound better?
Contact us today if you need some fresh content for your website, blog, or link building campaign. We can handle anything you give us!