woman working remotely on laptop
From enabling seamless messaging to adding in fun events like virtual happy hours, business owners can utilize these tips to improve communication and boost remote morale. — Getty Images/Rowan Jordan

With COVID-19 continuing to affect communities all over the U.S. and the world, one of the biggest pandemic-inspired business trends has been employees working from home. In many cases, workers who have only worked in offices or stores are now performing duties while social distancing in their homes.

As such, newly remote teams who have always interacted in person are still transitioning to new norms and trying to get better at all-digital communication. Challenges such as using new apps, feeling emotionally connected and understood, adjusting to video calling and more persist for teams during this time.

Here are six ways to improve your team’s remote communication abilities.

Get your technology in order

One of the most important things to do as your teams settle into remote work is to invest in tools that can help them communicate seamlessly and efficiently, such as online documents, shared cloud storage, video chat apps and instant messaging apps. Once you test tools out, then you should decide which software will be used for what tasks so everyone is working together. For example, if you decide you want to use Slack for instant messaging and Zoom for video calls, then every employee should be available on those platforms throughout the day.

One underappreciated aspect of communication at home is a reliable internet connection, which can power all those digital tools you’ve chosen to use. For example, if you rely on a wireless router in the home, you may need to set the router up somewhere closer to your office space to get a better signal or get a wireless extender to broadcast the signal further. Alternately, you could get a wired ethernet cord and physically attach it to your laptop or desktop for an improved internet connection.

Set clear expectations and availability

As your teams develop their own norms and schedules, set expectations regarding what work is due each week and how the work should be delivered. Be understanding that working at home has many more distractions than the average workplace (including children taking part in remote learning or caring for sick loved ones), but also try to establish firm deadlines that take into account challenges workers may face at home. This can create clearer communication when it comes to tasks and priorities.

One thing that can help manage expectations is to establish regular availability and “office hours.” While your team may not physically be in the same place, there should be standard times (for example, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) where everyone can digitally be in the same space. This allows for open communication channels and more opportunities throughout the day to work on team goals.

Improving your communication between teams shouldn’t all be focused on work matters.

Prioritize video calls

While meeting in person is no longer an option for many teams, hosting meetings where you can see everyone’s face is the next best thing. Hosting video calls through services such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Skype can help open up communication lines, foster social interactions and keep remote teams engaged. Video calls also work better than conference calls because you can make sure people are paying attention, ensuring you don’t have to relay redundant information later.

Hold a daily team meeting

To keep the team talking and overcoming problems each day, managers can host a daily team meeting each morning. Over video (if possible), use this team meeting to talk about project updates, weekly goals and anything else that can be discussed quickly. Keeping the meeting to a half hour or less can make sure it doesn’t take too much work time away from your employees.

Consider your tone

As remote teams adjust to digital tools for communication, it’s important to note that your tone in writing or over a video call may not come across exactly the same as it does in person. For example, using exclamation points in business emails sometimes may convey overexcitement about rote tasks or giving one-word answers to questions on Slack may feel cold and rude. Try out Grammarly’s tone detector if you need help navigating this.

Host weekly happy hours or celebrations

Improving your communication between teams shouldn’t all be focused on work matters. Hosting a weekly happy hour or coffee break where employees can talk about whatever is on their mind can help create emotional connections and help each other know what is happening in each other’s lives. This could lead to finding out a serious matter, such as a loved one is sick, or something fun, such as a new hobby. Additionally, to keep spirits up you can host small birthday or work anniversary celebrations over video calls to help people feel connected.

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