All of a sudden, many companies shifted to remote work, anticipating years of digital transformation. In many cases, it was good to accelerate this movement but it left workers with many questions. What is the best way to communicate with my team to guarantee we are on the same page and on the right track?
It is a hard question to answer. Mainly when people were used to sitting next to the team and discussing the best solution or had brilliant ideas during the break time. Well, new times require adaptation and, based on that, I’m going to share with you some tips to make your team’s communication more fluid.
To give you more context, at Pipefy we already had teams working remotely. We have offices in São Paulo – Brazil, Curitiba – Brazil, San Francisco – US, and workers in different cities around the world. But in March of this year, it was the first time 100% of our HoneyBadgers shifted to the remote.
Getting ready for this moment was a big challenge. We only had two days to prepare everything: IT support, facilities support, leadership support, and also training our team with the best practices to succeed while working apart from each other. Based on this training, I’m going to share some practices with you.
Asynchronous vs Synchronous Communication
First of all, it is essential to understand the different ways of communication: Asynchronous and Synchronous Communication.
Asynchronous communication occurs when participants aren’t always online at the same time, for example, chat or email. On the other hand, synchronous communication is communication where all participants are present at the same time, as in a videoconference.
Working with distributed teams requires asynchronous communication because people don’t work in the same time zone and office. This distinction is important to lessen people’s anxiety, especially when it comes to getting a response they need.
But of course, synchronous communication is also important. Meeting the team can solve things faster, because you can talk to everybody at the same time and have a face-to-face conversation. It is common for people to want immediate answers and to handle everything with a great sense of urgency. But in remote work this is not possible, because people are working in different time zones and also need to focus on their deliveries.
When to use one or the other: Consider the content when deciding between different tools for communication. Examples:
- An urgent matter that needs a quick decision: this is a good candidate for a video call
- A question about a presentation or document you’re working on at the moment, but it’s not a blocker: chat message
- To inform the team you’re going to be out-of-office in the morning two days later: set the OoO on the calendar and inform the team asynchronously through a message
- Feedback on a document: use the comment feature on GSuite
- Use videoconference for active collaborative work. For instance, pairing developers, two people working together on a presentation, etc.
- Use asynchronous communication abundantly – always choose over-communication instead of the other way around
Best Practices using Asynchronous communication
- Write as unambiguously as possible
- Have as much information as possible, avoid having your peers blocked by lack of information
- When using chat, avoid tagging @here or @channel all the time
- Only tag people if it is indeed urgent
- State your full message instead of waiting for back-and-forth greetings. E.g.:
- BAD: Person 1: Hi / Person 2: Hi / Person 1: Can you help me? / Person 2: Sure / …
- GOOD: Person 1: Good afternoon, I need some information on X, do you know how to do Y? / Person 2: Sure, that’s how you do it…
- Be as public as possible. Private channels/DMs are only for really private messages
- If you work with sensitive information, ask IT to set up a private channel for your team instead of using DMs. For instance, finance or HR groups instead of DMs with three or four people
- After using the synchronous method of communication, document the decisions on an asynchronous channel like chat, Google Docs or e-mail
- Have a photo on your profile, subconsciously it’s a reminder there’s a real person there
Best practices using Synchronous communication
- When using video, have the camera on whenever possible
- Avoid using the second screen, to other people you look sideways
- From time to time, try to look straight into the camera, it has the same effect as looking the person in the eyes
- Mute your microphone when you’re not talking
- Leave less important remarks and jokes to the chat channel
- Have your name on the videoconference tool instead of the account name
Communication is a big challenge for all companies, that is why it is so important to always over-communicate! We need to guarantee the message will be delivered to everybody, so use all of the channels that you have and also align what is important with your leaders – they are your allies on sharing this content with their teams!
Bet on engagement actions so that your team does not lose all of the teamwork that has been done. It’s cool to promote breaks, stretching, or happy hours by video to keep the team cohesive and in touch.