12 ways to improve communication during remote work

With the current state of affairs, the majority of people today are working remotely. What once seemed impossible is now possible. The 40-hour workweek has been digitized.

That has its own challenges. How can you ensure quality communication virtually?

Twelve thought leaders share what they’ve done to improve communication during this period of remote work.

Headshots of the twelve thought leaders

1. Create a virtual water cooler

Communication can be enhanced when there are multiple ways to communicate, such as with video, with instant messaging, and of course email connectivity. These channels should allow for structured team meetings and updates with each member reporting out; as well as unstructured meetings, which create that virtual "water cooler" moment, and allows each member to appropriately share on various non-business-related topics. Also consider closing out each team meeting with a short favorite virtual tour that inspires and brings the team together in a shared experience.

Janet Wise, vCandidates 

2. Consider what your team needs

Remote work isn’t as scary as some people perceive it to be. If you can nail down communication and collaboration virtually, you’re going to be alright. We use all the classics - email, video conferencing, data management software. Think about the specific needs of your organization and base your tools and software on that.

Dr. Marc M. Batschkus, Archiware

3. Embrace morning meetings

As remote work has become the norm for my organization and countless others, ensuring that we are communicating clearly with one another is a top priority. Understandably, the structure of your typical day in the office cannot translate perfectly to the virtual office setting. In other words, there has been a need for adaptation as my organization has shifted into this new environment. A prime example of this is our daily morning meetings. In the office, we would simply turn to one another and share our wins and priorities for the day. Now, we gather around our virtual office in Zoom and do the same. It sets the tone for the day and allows us to communicate in ways that work with our shifting surroundings. 

Tara Thompson, Digital Marketing Company

4. Ask clarifying questions

Remote teams can get in trouble when assumptions happen. I am always encouraging my team members to ask clarifying questions. As a leader, you should always be excited when your team is looking to communicate more and ask questions.

Alex Reiff, Senior Director

5. Be mindful of video calls

We're using technology like Zoom for both "in-person" meetings and social time, as well as Loom to provide audio and video feedback when a meeting is not necessary. With so many of us on Zoom-fatigue, we're being super intentional about finding the right cadence and structure for our calls, as well as encouraging breaks throughout the day.

Kristen J. Zavo, Find Your Job Joy

6. Utilize AI

We are creating community spaces using digital tools and AI to contribute equally with high-performing autonomous teams, built on trust. This eliminates the need for middle management.

Marisa Mejric, CompuSight

7. Practice empathy

Many companies are using more varied forms of contact, including SMS/text messaging. I hear companies being more lenient with employees showing up to video meetings late, having to leave early, or not making it at all due to obligations in the home. Empathy is real and is being practiced by more and more companies.

Anthony Basuil, Technical Recruiter

8. Try team-building activities

Our organization has taken team-building events and converted them for the virtual space. Once a week we have a team meeting where our corporate team all comes together on our remote work platform. Employees take this time to recognize each other for their hard work. Leadership communicates what's going on with the company as well as sharing any birthdays or anniversaries.

Steven Brown, DP Electric Inc

9. Pick up the phone

We've made sure to implement communication channels that match the various work teams. We have an on-going chat for the customer service team who need real-time access to each other. We have email strings as a paper trail, and when anything feels like it's getting lost in translation, we have a "pick up the phone" policy. We also try to take a step back when reading a message to ensure we're not adding unnecessary emotion or taking something out of context.

Hana Ruzsa Alanis, Solar-Breeze

10. Use intentional communication plans

An intentional communication plan is essential. Decide on what, when, and how you want to communicate and be sure to build in a feedback loop so that you can validate whether the right message was received by the necessary people. It is possible to over-communicate and create noise and distraction, however, I believe it’s easier to under-communicate. Start with a basic communication plan and iterate; gathering feedback after the communication will give you the data to improve. Weekly all-hands, daily team “stand-ups”, and bi-weekly team socials have been popular and can be done well with some planning and creativity.

Philip Botha, Culture Advantage

11. Be honest

For people in the technology sector, remote work is already well established with a number of high-performing distributed teams. The key is to be extremely consistent and intentional about how you communicate. It is also important to be completely honest with where you are at any given time. If you are stuck, you are responsible to surface that immediately, even though spending an afternoon on the couch seems way more enticing.

Lukas Ruebbelke, BrieBug

12. Don’t forget social hour

The workplace experience team has organized happy hours, movie events, and Open Mic nights on Zoom. This has really helped keep the community together and provided some levity during a tough time.

Adrienne Collins, Workplace Experience Manager

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