In our previous blog post, we discussed a few recommendations for distributed teams. Today, we are diving deep into online communication tools for remote working environments to facilitate communication among distributed teams.
Remote Communication Tools
Choose your communication method wisely. Know how and when to use email, chat, phone or video conference. Sometimes you might even need to fly someone in for complex strategy sessions or yearly review meetings. It will all depend on what you need to ask and how urgently you need it.
I’ll give you some personal examples: I usually chat when I need something specific and fast. If I have no answer after a while, I send an email with the question and move on to another issue. If the question rises a debate, I prefer to switch it to a video call, especially when I need to invite someone else to the discussion. I hardly ever use local files. I try to have all my documents and spreadsheets on the shared drive, to facilitate collaboration and sharing.
Emails should be concise follow-ups to previous conversations. Email can be used to recap meetings and establish next steps, for quick reviews or to set up other meetings. Don’t drop a big project on email and expect everyone to get onboard.
Don’t write long-winded emails with big paragraphs or multiple asks. Break the information into short sentences, use bullet points and make sure to use the subject line to present the topic of the email. Close the email with a deadline or expected response and be receptive to connect in other ways if something needs to be discussed more in depth.
Project Management Tools
Project management tools are overtaking email as the preferred method to manage project production. They work incredibly well in both office settings and with a distributed team. With project management tools, you can condense all the information anyone involved in the project might need, from the strategic plan to deadlines and status updates. You’ll find everything there, briefs, resources, status updates, and the finished product. It eliminates a lot of back and forth and time wasted looking for things in a shared folder or email.
Chat is a great tool for quick questions and to interact socially with remote co-workers. Use chat for simple things that need a quick answer; don’t attempt to make strategic decisions, request projects or send important links that will need to be referenced later through chat. You can also use chat to give a heads up that they should expect an email with more information.
Depending on your relationship, you can use emoticons when chatting to convey how you feel, but don’t abuse them in a professional setting.
Video conference is the closest thing to in-person meetings you can have when working remotely, but it does pose its challenges.
You might be tempted to keep the video off, but try to turn on the video whenever is possible (and if your bandwidth allows it). Your interaction will improve since you will be able to decode body language.
And as we shared in our last blog post, consider the particular circumstances of video conference meetings.