The data is clear: Remote employees, managers and founders struggle with communicating remotely, but what's the issue? Some of the most common problems include:
In the following article, we propose three main pillars of remote communications, which we extracted and put together by talking with some leading remote teams.
As the name says, these are three pillars, and they are all equally needed for remote communication to succeed this way.
The biggest chunk of your communication should happen async. What does that mean?
Let's start at the other end of the spectrum, synchronous communication. Synchronous communication describes anything, where a message is received, at the (roughly) same time as it is sent. A call, a video conference or a in-person meeting are synchronous, but so are instant messaging tools (if used "correctly"), like Slack. Anything that expects a receiver to respond as soon as possible can be considered an synchronous communication tool.
Asynchronous communication does not expect the receiver to respond directly. Ideally, it doesn't even trigger a notification or create a feel of urgency. A great example is E-Mail, but also Slack–if notifications are turned off, and people are not expected to reply right away. With the rise of remote work, more asynchronous tools are popping up too, like Doist's Twist. Like with most things, this is a mindset change, over a toolkit change though.
Embracing asynchronous communication as the main way of communication (face-to-face meetings and calls are inevitable and okay, just not as the main form of communication!), means empowering your employees to work at any time they feel productive, not when others are awake, and can help with communication across timezones, as well as keeping everyone in the loop.
We talked about remote-first before, but even if your company is not remote-first (meaning that a larger part of the company works from a co-located office), your communication should be. Most, if not all, company-related discussion and communication should be publicly readable and not happen only amongst co-located team members
Conducting your communication remote-first in practice, usually means the following:
Part of this is also being mindful and aware of the working situations of others. Make sure to not call in meetings that work only in your timezone, and assume that others are okay with being up late or getting up early (or, if you do so, don't expect them to show up). Create a working environment that is okay with people taking time off their work, and don't expect them to reply just because they are still at home.
The two prior pillars do not work, if the last and third pillar is not ensured: Giving comprehensive, possibly even exhaustive replies.
Asynchronous communication cannot work, if the individual replies lack substance and needs clarification all the time. Always assume that you'll only receive a reply in 8+ hours, you will want to make every single reply count. Even synchronous communication (video conferences or instant messaging) can not work with remote employees if the individual responses lack substance. Not only will it waste everybodys time, it also makes it incredibly hard to communicate. Take these measures to ensure that your messages are comprehensive:
The three pillars of remote communication are an ongoing work in progress and may change a little bit. However, it is a this point the result of surveying and talking to over 100 remote team members, managers and founders about remote communication, and boiling the results of that down into 3 concrete points. If you have any additions or comments, let us know at @nohq on Twitter.
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