Nearly a year ago, three quarters of the BerganKDV workforce went remote in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After twelve months, we’re still working through the challenge of maintaining relationships with remote team members. Remote work came with various other challenges that our teams had to overcome, such as lack of face time, missing social interactions, adjusting onboarding processes and more. We at BerganKDV set out to address these challenges using three core principles – Communication, Collaboration and Culture. In this blog series, I will discuss each principle and the importance they have in creating a productive and inclusive remote work environment, starting with communication.
Easily, one of the biggest challenges remote workers face is communication. Here are some tips to help with communication among remote team members:
Write Well: Remote workers use written communication more than any other communication format. So, it’s essential that when you use written communications, you write well. And “writing well” means more than using proper grammar and ensuring your writing is clear (although, those help). One of the greatest pitfalls of written communication is that there are no verbal cues. You can’t see how someone on the other end of your email takes your jokes or, even when you don’t mean to, your written communications can come off as curt. To help with this, consider adding emojis or other written cues that show you’re joking. This can go a long way toward helping people understand you’re being silly or funny and not serious. Also, just like you might do in a face-to-face conversation, try to be personable and friendly. Even if it’s obligatory, it can make all the difference in how your message is perceived.
Know When the Written Word Won’t Cut It: The other major pitfall of written communications is that it can be easy to get lost in the back and forth of the messages or lose track of who is saying what. While written communications are the go-to when you’re remote, it’s essential to recognize that sometimes written messaging just won’t cut it. When written communications—no matter the platform—are getting confused, heated, or no one knows what’s what, it’s time to pick up the phone (or start a video chat) to keep clear up any written miscommunications.
Switch to Video: If you’re not already using video calls with your team members, we highly recommend it. Video calls can help build strong relationships with remote team members because they have the advantage of giving you those visual cues you often miss with written and even verbal communications. Understanding body language can be important to improving the quality of a conversation. And, just as important, you can learn more about your coworkers as people. Are they neat freaks? Do they have dog pictures up all over their office? Are they coffee or tea people? Do they have a favorite mug for said beverage? Getting a glimpse into their home office can help you see your coworkers as people.
Create an Ongoing Feedback Loop: If you follow the strategies above, you should have a better understanding of the people you work with, but like all relationships, it takes ongoing work to maintain them. That’s why you need to create a regular feedback loop with each person on your team. If you create a regular cadence where you can uncover potential problems, it will help you stop fires when they are a small spark.
Say “Thank you!” More Than You Do Now: Finally, create a habit of saying thank you. An unfortunate reality is that people know they should give recognition more than they do, but because it’s not a habit, it’s easy to forget. You could make sending kudos part of your everyday workflow by mapping it to existing workplace behaviors. For example, when sharing status updates, you also can say thanks to team members who may have helped with any projects along the way. The same applies for check-ins or other communication workflows you have setup. And, most simply, send a quick thank you response to your team members whenever they are helpful in any way.
Using strong communication skills is key when working remotely. Without face-to-face interaction, social cues and context is often lost. By making an effort to communicate effectively and following the above suggestions, you can help create a welcoming and productive environment that encourages employee engagement. Stay tuned for the next post where I will discuss the collaboration principle.
If you are curious to learn more remote transition tips, specifically as it relates to onboarding, you can download this whitepaper. The whitepaper is a checklist that shares 14 steps you can take to create a seamless remote onboarding experience for your new hires.