The shift to remote work accelerated dramatically in the first quarter of 2020. The coronavirus pandemic together with the resulting lockdown saw to that. During this time, many managers suddenly have to coordinate tasks over a remote team. Collaboration became paramount in the blink of an eye.
Working from home, for better or worse, is here to stay, according to a report from CNBC. If you find yourself managing a remote workforce in the future, you may encounter some challenges.
One of the potential problems you can face is miscommunication. Some reasons behind this issue are insufficient context, non-work distractions, lack of effective training for virtual team members, differences in time zones, oversight difficulties.
How do you get a handle on the miscommunication dangers of virtual work? Here are some suggestions to reduce this problem and help turn your remote team into a well-oiled machine:
When you rush through conversations, you negatively affect productivity for everyone involved. Using shorthand text and even emoticons can be tempting. Not everyone, however, understands these or would like to spend time figuring out "digital hieroglyphics." Instead, refrain from using emojis and use complete, correct, clear and concise sentences.
Also, always check if you've responded to messages asked or stated by members of your virtual team. A team member will often send more than one question in an e-mail or text to get direction and clarity. If the receiver fails to take the time to recognize and understand each question, this can result in follow-up messages until all questions or inquiries get answered. This also results in rising frustration levels between both parties.
Some people often tend to gloss over the semantics, thinking that they've expressed themselves properly. What they potentially leave out, however, may be exactly what the other person needs to get the job done effectively and efficiently. Adding as many details as possible in this case is always better than assuming that the other person can read your mind and expect to fill in the gaps in your message.
What's more, refrain from using biting humor or sarcasm in your writing. This kind of tone is highly prone to misinterpretation and can result in negative emotional responses in the recipient. If you're feeling frustrated or having a bad day or week, leave those emotions out of your e-mail message or text. Be professional at all times.
A sense of belonging and community in a team helps make communicating easier between team members. If your virtual workers know each other personally, expect work e-mails and other forms of communication to be a little less passive-aggressive.
Traditional work teams usually schedule bonding events and quarterly retreats to foster workplace camaraderie and improve communication among staff. These gatherings, however, may not be possible when you handle a remote work team. You'll likely have people working in different time zones or from different ends of the world.
The workaround for this is to create a common online platform, such as Facebook groups, where team members can share non-work-related stuff and just let their hair down. Whether the posts are mind-blowing articles, silly memes or cat videos, there's surely one thing that all your remote workers can laugh together (behind the screens), as well as bond with each other over.
Visual interactions, such as teleconferencing calls, allow you to learn the communication styles of your team members. This approach lets participants experience those crucial non-verbal cues, including facial expressions and tone of voice. The ability and interaction to obtain immediate clarification help reduce misinterpretation and boost productivity.
Although you can't accomplish all communications through video conferencing, a regularly scheduled monthly or weekly video meeting can help members of the team understand the context and minimize differences in communication styles, especially when discussions involve native language, cultural or generational differences.
You need to trust your remote team more when they're working from home. You should make handling tasks as easy as possible for your team without your oversight. Part of this is making sure that everyone understands who is responsible for what.
If your department is juggling lots of projects on the go, designate project team leaders or managers. Let your team members know who they should get in touch with for feedback or questions. This way, you won't get lots of message threads or crossed wires that come to no satisfactory conclusions.
The potential for miscommunication is a major hurdle you need to overcome when managing a virtual workforce. By following these tips, you provide yourself with the best chance of overcoming this hurdle.