“Wait a minute, so you have never met your coworkers in person? How do you get anything done? What?” This is the type of response I often get when I explain to friends that Kuvio is a 100% remote company and that my coworkers live across time zones. To be honest, I get it. From the outside, it could seem like since we don’t physically work together we are a band of strangers trying to loosely form an agency. But this could not be further from the truth! We may not know how tall our coworkers are, but we are still a tight-knit team. In fact, I find that the communication at Kuvio is actually stronger than at the other traditional companies I have worked at. I think this is because we have to put the effort in and be intentional about how we stay in touch. This has led to efficient, creative working relationships that allow our projects to be cohesive and also allows us to be faster and more limber. Today I wanted to share some advice that we have used to make our communication so successful. If you work on a remote team, want to start one, or even want to mix things up in your office, hopefully, these are helpful.
Above all, this drives our approach to communication. Thinking about others’ feelings is critical when working together. For example, if we need to move a meeting we ask as soon as possible so that people can plan around it. Additionally, if team members are on vacation, we respect that and don’t reach out. The driving force behind our approach to communication is just taking a second to think about the other person and how they will feel.
Having clear, agreed-upon expectations can prevent confusion and disappointment related to communication. For example, we have a mutual expectation that our team members will reply within 24 hours unless they have made previous arrangements. Since we know this, we have all learned to ask questions with lead time so that the other person has a chance to respond. This is one of the ways we have adjusted to work better together.
Have the right tools
There are many, many digital communication tools out there and what is best can vary from team to team. What is most important is that everyone is on board with the tools that are used so the team is united on various platforms. Take some time to explore and try out different tools to find what works best. If you need some inspiration, read about some of our favorite communication tools here.
Create a digital water cooler
In order for your team to connect, give them a space to chat about things not related to work. For our team, this happens in a Slack channel and we have also held optional calls where we can come together and chat about anything not related to work, whether it be sports or the new popcorn we tried last week. These types of interactions are fun and can strengthen communication on work-related tasks.
Think twice before hitting send
When most of your communication is done via written word, it becomes important to do that extra read through before deciding to hit send. It can be hard to judge tone when you are not speaking face to face so taking an extra second to reflect can help you sending something you regret.
Recognize good work
Since we don't see each other every day it could be easy to forget to recognize each other for outstanding work. Don’t be afraid to hype each other up when someone has done something good. Give the person a shoutout through a Slack channel or send them a quick email letting them know how much you appreciate their work. This is a great way to keep people happy and productive.
Get ready to compromise
When you live across the world and in different cultures from your coworkers you need to make an effort to get along. It is absolutely amazing to be able to collaborate with people with so many different perspectives and because of this, I am willing to sometimes wake up at 6 am for a meeting and sometimes my coworkers do the same for me.
Answer all questions
If someone asks a question, always send them an answer. Even if the answer is “I am not sure, let me look into this and get back to in a few hours,” letting the person know you saw their inquiry and are working on it reduces anxiety and lets everyone keep working as efficiently as possible. Additionally, when questions go unanswered, the resulting follow-up takes extra time and can really slow things down.
When you have information, share it. Don’t procrastinate or wait for someone to ask because while this may feel better in the short-term it is going to derail the team in the long-run. If you know you are going to be late on a deadline let your teammates know right away. If a client is upset, don’t just try to patch it up by yourself. Let your team know so that everybody can move forward informed.
Have a plan for emergencies
When something goes wrong on a remote team you can’t go running over to your boss’s desk and ask for help. Your boss might be across the world, asleep, unaware of the problem. Setting a standard for what happens when an emergency arises is important. For example, maybe there is someone who is authorized to make decisions when a certain manager can’t be online. You may also decide that in these times phone calls are the preferred method of communication over chat.
We hope these communication tips and tricks help you to become connected with your team. Whether working remotely or not, communication is critical to fostering creativity so it is worth investing time in improving it. Do you have your own communication tips? Share the with us on Twitter, @KuvioCreative.
Kuvio Creative is a web design and development agency that creates modern, innovative, and user-friendly websites and apps for small business and nonprofit clients. Learn more and chat with us today: www.kuv.io.
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