It is any business owner's dream to have a team they can call their own. And with the recent pandemic and lockdowns here and there, a lot of business owners have opted to put their teams in a remote work setup. Needless to say, remote work setup has been more rampant now more than ever. It has its advantages, and disadvantages though. One of the challenges in this kind of work setup is communication.
You see, communication is a crucial part of any organisation. If your team has a poor communication process, then, expect effects on your team’s performance. It could spell morale issues, confusion, process continuity gaps, etc. It becomes more crucial and important when you are in a remote work setup, take it from me.
The challenge lies in the fact that with remote work setup, you don’t physically get to meet with your team. That fact alone is already a huge chunk removed from the opportunities a face-to-face interaction gives. Because of that, as a leader, you are primarily responsible for establishing effective communication. Your team will only follow whatever communication process you establish, so it has to be as effective as possible.
We at Global VA Solutions have been in the business for how many years now. We also have a virtual team of our own, hence we know how important communication is in this kind of work setup. In line with it, we make sure that the Vas we hire for our clients are well trained with the basics of proper communication.
With that said, this article will guide you on how to establish an effective communication process with your virtual team. These are best practices that we personally use within our virtual team.
Let’s jump right in.
1. Communication Channels
First off are communication channels. It goes without saying that since remote work setups are deprived of face-to-face interactions, online communication channels play a big role. There are different kinds of communication channels that you and your team can utilise. To name a some of the communication channels:
Instant messaging apps
Project management app
Traditional SMS or voice calls
Messaging apps are normally used only for urgent messages since these messages are sent right away, and are potentially received right away as well. The most widely used personal messaging app out there would be Messenger. Slack is also an instant messaging app, but it’s more on the professional side. Apart from these two, you also have WhatsApp, Viber, etc.
Next are teleconferencing, or video telephony software. With the lack of face-to-face interactions, conducting your team meetings or 1-2-1 will only be possible through these apps. These apps, like Zoom, will enable you and your team to conduct your team meetings virtually. With the use of webcams, you will somehow be able to see your team members as you conduct your meetings.
Project management apps like Asana also provide means of communicating with your team members. These apps let you communicate through a messaging feature within it, or, it will also let you communicate within tasks. You could also potentially set up a communication section within it.
There was a time when email was at the peak of digital communication. It replaced the traditional snail mail since it’s faster and more cost-efficient. However, with the rise of instant messaging apps, sending emails nowadays has been the go-to communication channel for proper and formal correspondences. These formal correspondences include business proposals, job offer/contracts, formal written complaints and the like. The reason why this is used for more proper correspondences is it lets users type longer messages, and doesn’t warrant an instantaneous response.
Finally, traditional SMS or voice calls. This is only applicable if you and your team live in the same country, otherwise it will be more expensive to use either of these options. Just like instant messaging apps, these options should only and ideally be used if there is an urgent concern. There are other communication channels out there, but these ones are the most common that virtual teams currently use.
2. Set Proper Expectations
Once you have established the types of communication channels you’ll be using within your team, it’s now time to set proper expectations. Just because they know they can message you through Messenger doesn’t mean that they can do it regularly. This is where setting proper expectations comes in.
For starters, make a list of all the communication channels you’re planning to use or currently using, then, establish when to use these. As an earlier example, instant messaging apps should only be used for urgent matters, whereas email should be used for more formal messages. Communicating within your project management app should only be within relative tasks. Lastly, video telephony services are for team meetings or one on one coaching sessions.
Once you’ve already established these, document it and let your team members know about it.
3. Touchbase Meetings
Do not let the remote work setup hinder meeting up with your team. Without being able to physically meet up with them, your best bet is by scheduling virtual team meetings. These meetings can be a combination weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly, or even annually.
Within these meetings you can discuss departmental updates, but that doesn’t mean you can’t catch up on personal matters. You can set meetings where you purely discuss business. Then, you can also set up meetings solely for catching up with your team’s personal lives. It may sound mundane, but asking how your member’s weekend was gives an impression to your team member that you care for their welfare. This also shows you are interested in their life not just as an employee, but as a person in general. It matters since it’s a great icebreaker, as well as it can boost your team member’s morale. This will also be helpful in building camaraderie between your members.
An important note here when asking is that you have to be genuinely interested, otherwise you will just sound scripted.
Apart from team meetings, also ensure that you schedule one on one coaching sessions with each of your team members. This way, you will have a more focal discussion with your VA. When conducting either team meetings or one on one sessions, as a leader, make sure that you talk less, and give more opportunity to your VAs to speak up.
4. Daily Check Ins And Check Outs
Since there is no physical workplace to report to, daily check ins and check outs should do the trick. Establishing this daily procedure will empower your team to let you know once they’re logged in, and once they’re about to log out. With check-ins, you would also be able to know if they will be logging in for work or not, or if they will be late from logging in.
Daily check outs on the other hand will inform you on how their day was, which tasks they’ve finished and which are pending, what challenges they faced within the day, etc. This is also one way of heat-checking your VAs. This way, somehow you would be able to know if your VA needs assistance with anything.
5. Communication Reinforcement
Last but not the least would be reinforcing the communication process you’ve established. As with other processes, establishing is half the work, the other half would be to maintain it and reinforce it if needed. It is your job as a leader to follow the process you’ve created and established. Ever heard of practice what you preach?
If you feel like the current process is no longer working, then, reassess your process and see where the gap is. Check which part of your process is ineffective, and make necessary changes. If your process is flowing smoothly but your members are not thoroughly following it, then reinforcement is a must.
Remind your team why these processes were established. You have to remember people follow when they understand what they need to follow. Otherwise, they will just say yes but do the exact opposite. Avoid harsh reinforcement as it may create more gaps. Let them know why the process was created, and then ask them what challenges they are facing following the process. Listen to what your team has to say, then create your next course of action from it.
Whether your business is a remote or physical setup, communication plays a huge role with your team. You just have to exert a little more effort in communicating with your team if you’re on a remote work setup. The success of your organisation depends on your team’s performance. And, your team’s performance can hugely be affected by how you communicate with them.
We discuss this and more during our GVAS free consultation call with our clients. We answer their queries and point them in the right direction regarding VA recruitment.
Bear in mind that a virtual meeting is different from an actual meeting. Asking someone for updates from the other side of the globe is not like skipping to an office workstation. I can’t stress enough how important communication is within a remote work setup, hence an effective communication process should be in place. It will give your team the accountability on who to contact on which platform for what concern.
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