In the wake of COVID-19, an increasing number of professionals have come to prefer remote work. It’s essential to determine how your organization will operate in this new normal. Get a step ahead of the game by being intentional about how your organization executes work with a remote team.
While remote work offers employees more flexibility and employers the chance to reduce overhead costs, it does require leaders to be strategic. To help employees work most productively, consider these four ways to manage communication expectations with your remote team.
1. Outline Response Time Requirements for Key Activities
With a remote team, you may have staff members who are distributed across time zones and even continents. Implement an asynchronous communication strategy and set expectations among your team that allow for autonomy and increased productivity. This way, work can be done in conjunction with local time zones, team workload, and individual preferences. Today’s worker doesn’t just want flexibility — they want autonomy and trust.
This autonomous approach is not without boundaries, however. To ensure client satisfaction and keep work flowing, you will want to establish expectations regarding response times for key activities.
For example, you could require that all client inquiries receive responses within 24 hours. Meanwhile, internal communications might be allowed a 36- to 48-hour response window, with provisions made for more time-sensitive requests. By setting these expectations, your team can prioritize their workload and provide excellent service to their clients and colleagues.
2. Identify the Communication Channels Your Team Will Use and When
When it comes to communication, in-office culture typically prefers in-person conversations, meetings, and email. But in a remote environment, it may seem that all bets are off. Team members can choose from among email, text, virtual meetings, chat windows within meetings, phone calls, and more.
To tame this Wild West, create a set of communication standards and guidelines for your organization. Outline expectations regarding what channels teams should use to communicate and for what types of messages and projects.
At first, it may seem like overkill to apply a set of rules to how colleagues should speak to one another. However, quite the opposite is true. By determining the appropriate channel for particular communications, project assignments will be clearer and interactions more streamlined. Employees will know which channels to prioritize as they collaborate with one another.
For example, your team may have a virtual meeting to kick off a new project. In that meeting, team members may be assigned project tasks. However, those assignments should be made official by adding specific tasks to your team’s project management and collaboration tool. There, an assignee can acknowledge the task and use that channel to ask questions or iron out scheduling issues. By going digital with the assignment, you can avoid losing details in translation.
3. Synchronize File Storage and Naming Conventions
In remote workspaces, it can be tempting for team members to archive project documents on their desktops. This not only poses a security risk, but it presents an opportunity for confusion and duplication among team members. Emailing files back and forth can easily create version control problems.
One clear solution to such problems is to use a cloud-based file storage platform like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. These platforms allow users to access project files — text documents, spreadsheets, slide decks, etc. — wherever and whenever they need them. Better still, by maintaining one current document file with a built-in version history, such platforms prevent users from inadvertently working with outdated versions.
You can further synchronize your team’s document-sharing practices by establishing file-naming conventions. When file names include the appropriate department, client, and/or project name, remote workers can easily locate the documents required for their project tasks. No matter what conventions you choose, simplifying file storage and version control will enhance efficiency and improve communication.
4. Streamline Project Management and Assignments
Your remote workforce may have already become experts at digital project management. But what if your team is still using Excel spreadsheets and paper notepads?
If your company could stand to standardize its project management approach, there’s no better time than the present. Project management software is more intuitive than ever and can be readily implemented in even the most seemingly antiquated organization. When choosing a solution, be mindful of multigenerational teams and conduct robust training on whatever platform you choose.
Develop guidelines on how project management software will be used in your organization and outline the new workflows. You’ll want to marry your old and new ways of doing business in a way that makes sense.
Empower your team to not only use the software but advocate for its use with clients and contractors. Doing so will further streamline project task flows. Encourage colleagues to embrace and champion the new procedures even when change is uncomfortable. When your team buys in, they can do their highest and best work.
Prioritize Clarity in a World of Ambiguity
Remote work has a way of forcing innovation to drive effectiveness. Stay ahead of the curve and prioritize optimizing your remote work practices for the betterment of your business and your customers. When you reduce workplace friction, your team members feel empowered to do their jobs most effectively.
As competition for talent increases, it’s in your interest to make your organization a great place to work — even when that work occurs in home offices. A desirable workplace is facilitated by a clear set of communication expectations and goals. When communication is clear in your organization, your team can more easily get down to work. Your efforts now will pay dividends for your clients and your bottom line.