Statistics indicate that a number of companies offering remote work tripled between 1996 and 2016. The trend kept gradually growing with continual technological advancements that made long-distance communication and data transfer possible, safe and reliable.
What is more, almost everyone (as much as 99% of people) say that they would prefer to work remotely at least some of the time. And more and more startups are working towards making this a viable option. In fact, we expect to see more than 70% of teams working from home by 2028.
Why wouldn’t they – the benefits are numerous. First off, employers get to choose from a greater pool of suitable candidates and can save money that would otherwise be spent on renting a physical office. And when it comes to employees, many appreciate the fact that they can work the way it bests suits them and say that this flexibility makes them much more productive. Lack of time wasted on the commute is also a huge plus!
So are there any problems? Yes.
Despite countless perks and advantages, remote work brings about a number of challenges. If you ask employees, you’ll hear them complaining about not being able to define the beginning and the end of the workday, prioritize their tasks, work without constant interruptions, or establish solid communication with their remote colleagues. For now, we’d like to focus on his latter one since it is a huge issue for employers as well.
While globalization enabled startups to hire talent from all corners of the world, this option also means that an employer or employees are required to adapt to another one’s time zone. That’s right – it is quite possible that as you are getting ready to start the day, someone has already finished their 8-hour shift and is unlikely to be available for a meeting, or even a short consultation.
It is also not uncommon, even today, to experience issues with an unstable internet connection which is the key for establishing a remote office.
So how do we overcome communication challenges?
Thankfully, remote work trend has been around for some time and many have already broken the ice. Gradually, as the new issues arose, companies started talking about them and actively searched for solutions. Today, there are several methods and tools you can rely on to improve collaboration with your peers from across the globe and complete any task as successfully as if everyone was sitting in the same conference room.
Secure a reliable connection
In order to ensure regular team check-ins at the beginning of the day, it is imperative to have a stable internet and phone connection that will allow you to work without interruption. Evidently, you need to opt for a telecommunication provider who will supply you with the means to keep in touch with all your colleagues and partners, no matter where they are. The best way to make an informed decision is to check out internet phone service reviews and read about other people’s experiences. This allows you to find out first-hand about the benefits and setbacks others have experienced and make an informed decision.
Set up practical chat channels
Emails are still the most professional mean of communication when you need to share complex information with your colleagues and business partners. However, working in a physical office includes a lot of short conversations that still need to happen in order for you to continue with your work.
In such instances, incorporating a messaging system will prevent putting a strain on everyone’s inboxes. For example, asking all your employees to install Slack or Skype will enable you to establish a communication channel with each person individually, as well as create group chatrooms. Most communication tools also come as a mobile app and are thus highly practical for digital nomads who are always on the go.
Be more visual
In addition to chatrooms, remote teams are advised to organize more frequent video meetings. Work-from-home option tends to turn even some of the more extrovert people into hermits, making them want to isolate themselves both physically and emotionally. Not only that, by relying on chat messages only, you risk misinterpretation of some more complex instructions. Video conferencing, on the other hand, allows you to communicate clearly, verbally and non-verbally, thus minimizing misunderstandings.
Furthermore, presentations have also proved to be quite effective. With people being able to better understand any piece of information when presented in the form of a visual, it is evident that a .pptx would likely be much better received then, for instance, a longer textual document.
Enrich your toolbox
Still, although chatrooms and videoconferences enable you to discuss the tasks that need to be completed, if you don’t use a project management tool – you risk creating total chaos. Defining deadlines, priorities and assigning tasks to the right people is essential and often quite challenging, especially if you are working on multiple projects and/or clients.
Currently, the market is flooded with amazing tools, each that comes with a unique set of features. The only way to determine the best one for you is to compare some of the most popular project management software and see which will enable you to organize the tasks you need to handle with ease.
Build a close online community
To keep the company afloat and communication channels as efficient as possible, companies are advised to first define an online company culture the same way as if they would for a physical branch. In the end, you want to be able to trust all your employees and not spend all your time finding new ways to micromanage everyone just to be sure that they will do their job.
It is not just about equipping yourself with adequate hardware and software that will keep you in touch with everyone and enable you to seamlessly transfer documents. Empathy, understanding and flexibility are all factors that influence the quality of communication between the members of a remote team.
Decide on the tools everyone should use, organize regular check-ins, define the time frame within which everyone will be online, and maintain a healthy company culture that will keep your people motivated and productive.