The Keys to Solid Remote Communication
Remote work comes with many perks—flexible scheduling, zero commuting, and no office wardrobe requirements.
But it isn’t perfect. For many professionals, remote communication with team members is challenging.
- According to a survey by Buffer, a leading 56% reported communication and collaboration as the biggest change when starting remote work.
- In a study by LiveCareer, 50% of respondents agreed that they do not receive as much feedback offsite as they did in person.
- A study by Owl Labs showed that team members are working more hours at home than they were in the office, yet only 11% of managers are concerned about remote team member burnout, showing a clear lack of remote team communication. That same study showed that on video conferencing, 70% of remote team members found it difficult to contribute to a conversation and 67% felt disengaged altogether.
Clearly, there are remote communication challenges—but they are solvable. Butter CEO Jakob Knutzen offers some helpful tips here on healthy remote over-communication, some of which we’ll elaborate on below.
You don’t have to choose between the flexibility of remote work and the connectedness of in-person communication. We’ll explore our favorite tips for effective remote communication that give you the best of both worlds.
Embrace overcommunication (without wasting your team’s time)
Full-time remote team members don’t always have the opportunity to clarify small details in the moment.
“Without physical proximity there are fewer signals about what’s actually going on, and that’s exactly when overcommunicating becomes fundamental to how the company operates,” said Leonardo Federico, founder of Pulse.
Federico doesn’t mean micromanage when he says “overcommunicate.” Great remote leaders overcommunicate by checking in regularly with team members while also being mindful of their time.
Send clear, specific messages and requests
Improve your remote communication skills by being clear about what you want and who you want it from.
- Only send emails and Slack messages to the person who needs to act on your request. CC everyone else so they know they don’t need to do anything.
- Don’t send messages to entire Slack channels using @here or @channel unless absolutely necessary.
- Avoid acronyms—spell them out instead. Your team members, especially new hires, will thank you for it.
This simple instant messaging and email etiquette shows that you value your team’s time.
Include specific times, dates, and context in your messages so your remote team members know when and why you need a response. Here’s an example of a Slack question that doesn’t follow these guidelines:
Team member: Hey, where can I find information on writing a delivery message for new clients?
This requires follow-up questions that waste everyone’s time. Here is a better question:
Team member: I have a quick question about delivering articles to Example Corp. Do I need to include hyperlinks to the QC report in the delivery message, or is it enough that they’re in the article? I thought I’d ask you since you used to work with them, and I just joined the account. I need to send this out tonight, so if you could get back to me by this evening, it would be much appreciated. Thank you!
That message gives your teammate everything they need to answer quickly and completely, and avoid a back-and-forth thread. Sometimes it can also be helpful just to call directly in an app like Remotion for a 30 second "swing-by-their-desk" type question.
Use more reference links for context
Provide more context around your messages by linking to relevant information, like:
- Loom videos
- Informative articles
- Internal resources
- Customer interview notes
- Useful Slack conversations
For example, link to a conversation thread with a client (instead of paraphrasing). This integration enables your entire team to fully understand context and make informed decisions without having to ask too many follow-up questions.
Default to public channels
In a remote environment where teammates miss out on overhearing conversations, it's especially important to embrace transparent communication. An easy way to do this: guide your team to have most conversations in public Slack channels, Notion docs, etc. (instead of in DMs).
Adopt remote communication tools that keep your team aligned
To stay connected without physical proximity, remote teams can’t just rely on phone and email. They need a mix of synchronous and asynchronous communication platforms to stay connected, whether or not everyone is online. Templates are also critical for empowering remote team members to handle work on their own, regardless of their time zone.
When the structure and format for a sales email or article outline have already been written out, it takes time and pressure off of your team members. It allows them to spend their energy focusing on the specifics of the content, which leads to their best and most efficient work. You can write out templates for almost anything, including:
- Sales emails
- Internal update emails
- Onboarding materials
- Excel reports
There are other types of templates as well, such as this project process template on Notion. This template focuses on process and offers step-by-step instructions for team members who want to efficiently and autonomously solve a problem. Using process templates like this can help streamline decision-making and ensure that your team is spending time on the right things.
Synchronous communication apps are typically video chat tools, like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. These remote communication tools are invaluable for work-from-home teams, but they aren’t always the best for staying productive. According to Zippia, 67% of respondents get distracted in virtual meetings.
Video apps like Remotion give remote team members an easier way to know when teammates are available and get in touch. They can hop in and out of coworking rooms and listen to music with their team members without disrupting their workflow. With these features, Remotion is great for productive working sessions, or getting quick questions answered instead of sending a long Slack message or scheduling a meeting.
With asynchronous remote communication apps, you don’t have to wait until you and your teammate have time to connect. Just send your communication and wait for a response.
Here are a few of our favorite async communication apps:
- Slack for messaging
- Yac to send voice messages
- Loom to record videos of yourself as you present documents. This async video messaging tool is especially ideal for teams in different time zones that may not be able to meet frequently.
Avoid unnecessary meetings
According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the number of meetings per person has gone up 12.9% since the pandemic. Managers lean on remote meetings for team-building but aren’t always aware that remote meeting fatigue is a growing problem.
Lean on asynchronous communication tools
Ask yourself the age-old question, can this meeting be an email or a Slack message?
Sometimes, you need a meeting to talk through a complex problem. But if your meeting is about a simple issue, you might be able to find a resolution through an async communication tool—like a Slack thread or a Google Doc on a shared Google Drive folder or an internal organization app like Basecamp.
Async communication may also be a better alternative if your meeting is for collecting or requesting information. Send out a survey to gather the details you need and share a deadline for when virtual team members should complete it.
Calculate the cost of the meeting
When you account for employee salary, lost potential revenue, and employee burnout, ineffective meetings cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
Find out how much your meeting is costing you with Harvard Business Review’s meeting cost calculator. If you decide your video conference or phone call isn’t worth it, consider canceling the meeting altogether and using alternative communication tools like Slack or Remotion instead. Your team probably won’t miss the conference call.
Put restrictions on the meetings you do have
It’s near impossible to get rid of meetings entirely, so consider adding restrictions to make them more manageable. Microsoft measured brain wave activity using EEG machines and found that:
- Remote video meetings are much more stressful than non-meeting work
- Fatigue starts around 30–40 minutes into a remote meeting
- Stress begins when there are more than two hours of meetings in a day
Microsoft recommends that you try to keep meetings under 30 minutes, take breaks during long meetings, and encourage regular breaks from work every two hours. This will allow your team members to rest mentally, physically, and visually (because we all know staring at a screen all day can be tiring!).
Make room for informal remote conversations
A recent study by BetterUp showed that 69% of respondents weren’t satisfied with opportunities for connection in the workplace, and 52% wanted more connection at work.
Team bonding may seem like a nice-to-have, but strong workspace relationships actually contribute significantly to productivity.
Team members who feel comfortable around each other have a solid foundation for collaboration. They can openly ask each other questions and share feedback.
Informal connections are especially important on remote teams since they can’t see each other face to face. Foster strong team relationships with these ideas.
Randomly pair team members
Slack offers a Donut bot that randomly matches team members for one-on-one watercooler meetings. Every few weeks, team members can get to know each other with video calls about fun topics—like where they live and what they love to do when they’re not working.
Create space for laid-back collaboration
With Remotion’s coworking rooms, team members can hop in and work side by side in a laid back way, so they get to know each other better in the process. Remotion's UI is lightweight and the calls are mostly minimized, so team members can chat or share space without feeling always on. Plus, you can share Spotify to set the tone or bond over music.
These spontaneous working sessions give your team the casual feeling of being in an office and help build organic relationships.
Create non-work Slack channels
Set up fun communication channels to unite team members around their outside-of-work interests. Some great channel ideas to start with are pets, movies, books, and side projects.
Recognize and spread good intentions in your communications
When you can’t pick up on verbal cues or body language, it can be easy to misinterpret team members’ intentions. Assume their actions and messages are coming from a good place to create a healthy workplace.
Assume positive intent
We’ve all received a blunt request that sounded more like an order, a public mention by a team member that feels like an attack, or a cold and unrewarding “thanks.” When these situations happen in an office, you can pop over to your team member’s desk to check in. More likely than not, you’ll realize your team member isn’t angry with you at all.
These light check-in conversations aren’t always possible in remote workplaces (unless you're in Remotion), but you can check in with yourself to make sure you’re not jumping to conclusions.
When you feel like a team member is mad at you, ask yourself, “what is making me feel this way?” If you’re just dealing with a few blunt messages, don’t panic just yet. Give your team member the benefit of the doubt, and remind yourself to check in with them when you get a chance to make sure you aren't reading too deeply into their message.
Proactively encourage and recognize your team
Assuming positive intent doesn’t just mean giving your team members the benefit of the doubt. It also means spreading positivity throughout the team. Here are a few ideas for doing just that:
- Recognize good work from individual team members by privately sharing praise through a DM or publicly on a shared Slack channel.
- Celebrate team-wide wins, like exceeding a target number of sales or receiving nice feedback from a client.
- Make your team members laugh by sending a funny GIF or telling a joke. Remember, work doesn’t always need to be serious!
Practice proactive recognition to improve your workplace morale and strengthen communication.
Ask your team what’s working (and what’s not)
If you have any doubts about the effectiveness of your communication, ask your team members! Feedback is essential to shaping a culture of strong remote communication because it’s the fastest way to tell if your remote collaboration tools are working.
Through your survey questions, ask team members to rate your current communication processes and tools using a 1 to 10 scale. Use an open-ended question box to ask them for suggestions about how to improve team communication.
Use Remotion to recapture the spark of working side by side for your remote team
Keeping team members happy is a critical part of retention. In a recent Wildgoose study, 58% of respondents reported that they value workplace happiness over salary. One of the keys to keeping your team happy? Making sure they feel energized by their work and connected to the rest of the team.
Remotion gives your team ways to collaborate and work side by side that feel natural and energizing. It helps bring back the momentum and energy of creating together. Instead of limiting interactions to formal meetings, team members can pop into coworking rooms to chat and collaborate with each other whenever they feel like it.
Try Remotion for free and take your remote communication (and work culture) to the next level.
The case for virtual coworking: build a connected remote culture.
Regularly coworking with your hybrid or remote team can help you build the social cohesion that makes work feel less like work.
Here are the biggest reasons we think coworking is an effective way to create a close-knit remote culture:
1. It fosters casual conversations.
Building a connected remote culture is all about fostering 1:1 or small group organic conversations. Virtual coworking makes space for those conversations. When you spend time together outside of agenda-driven meetings, spontaneous chats naturally occur, as they would in an office.
2. It's more inclusive than scheduled social events.
It can be draining for introverts to have to participate in scheduled, purely social conversations. Coworking allows the team to spend time together and occasionally chat without having to constantly be "on," making it more inclusive for introverts and extroverts alike.
3. It's easy to say yes to.
Purely social events are important, but if your team is busy or on a tight deadline, it's tough to find the time for social chats without it feeling like an obligation. Coworking is much easier to get your team onboard with because it doesn't take time away from getting work done.
4. It improves remote collaboration.
Coworking can lead to unblocking and shorter feedback loops. Quick questions get answered easily and in the moment, without a having to schedule a meeting or go back-and-forth in messages.
5. It's scalable.
Coworking works for teams of all sizes and is a great way to scale your remote culture as your team grows. It's helpful to create opportunities for teammates from different functions to get to know one another.
6. It creates shared momentum.
The feeling of togetherness is motivating!
Get started with virtual coworking: choose the type most aligned with your priorities.
It takes intentionality to make virtual coworking feel natural and energizing enough to stick—it's not as simple as leaving a Zoom call open all day.
Here are a few of the ways we've set coworking up for our team. We recommend choosing one to start with. If it works, make it routine and experiment with other types from there.
Try independent coworking.
Try project-based coworking.
Best practices for virtual coworking.
Keep group sizes small.
Limit your coworking sessions to 4-6 people to keep things from getting distracting and help make introverted teammates comfortable chatting.
Signal boost coworking.
Set a norm of letting the entire team know when you're hopping into a coworking room or session.
Make it routine.
Once you've figured out what kind of coworking works for your team, make it a regular, opt-in event. Set up a recurring calendar event to do it at the same time each week to maximize the impact.
Set expectations ahead of time.
When you're first introducing coworking to your team, share what you're imagining in your calendar invite and at the top of each session to get everyone on the same page. For example:
Let's try virtual coworking! We'll work independently on our own projects with our cameras off, but we'll share space and listen to music together — like we might work side-by-side at the office.
Listen to music together.
Play music while you work to create a shared environment and add a little bit of personality to your coworking session.
Set up Coworking Rooms in Remotion.
Most of the above is doable with any video chat app, but much easier with Remotion—which we designed with a lightweight, smooth coworking experience in mind. Easily set up Remotion rooms that your teammates can hop into for different styles of coworking.