Communication Barriers in Remote Teams
More and more companies are expanding across domestic and international regions. Along with this trend, virtual teams are on the rise. When the shift to remote work is sudden, and people are not used to it, it can cause many problems. Most of the challenges arise from common communication barriers. When dealing with virtual employees, they can get quite frequent.
Communication problems can impact employees’ satisfaction, motivation, and mental health. They harm productivity, as well. That’s why dealing with these issues is vital.
Below, we’ve listed four common types of communication barriers when dealing with remote teams and provided useful tips on how to overcome them:
1. Lack of Effective Communication
Poor communication is not uncommon when it comes to virtual work, harming productivity. The remote team members need to be able to talk to one another. They also need to know they can reach out to their manager.
Lack of real-time communication can lead to virtual employees feeling disconnected. Without visual signals and gestures, miscommunication can be frequent.
And if the workers don’t receive the feedback they need, it may result in frustration.
Lack of quality communication is a common barrier amongst remote workers. It can also result in conflicts between co-workers and higher stress levels. Lower performance and unsatisfied customers are common too.
So, providing smooth communication is essential to optimise productivity. Better communication will keep your staff and customers satisfied too.
Solution: Set a virtual communication guide and use the tools that enable instant communication:
- Response time limits: To help your team function, set response time limits. This way, no message or email will stay unanswered for a long period. Avoiding slang and culture-specific references will also reduce misunderstandings.
- Mandatory working hours for all: Making specific working hours mandatory for all can help improve collaboration. Ensure you choose hours when team members from different time zones can be online.
- Enable instant communication: To overcome this barrier, you need to enable instant communication too. There is a one size fits all solution when it comes to remote work. VoIP, phone service over the internet, can benefit your business communication and productivity. It comes with many features and innovative technology. It also brings together many different communication types. So, whether you need video conferencing, file sharing, or instant messaging, VoIP technology will have you covered.
2. Lack of Trust and Cohesion
Virtual work can harm trust. Working apart affects the frequency and quality of communications. There are fewer daily interactions and face-to-face communication. So, developing trust and bonding within a group can be harder.
That’s why often there can be little trust and teamwork among virtual employees. Trust and team bonds are most vulnerable to damage when people work remotely. So, they need to be actively managed, instead of left to chance.
Solution: Maintain transparency and be available to your remote employees:
- Be there for your team: Take the initiative and keep the virtual door open for your team members. Make effort to be there for your team and listen to their concerns. Also, encourage them to reach out to you, ask questions, and discuss work issues.
- Ensure your team feels respected: Make sure to provide your employees with a sense of respect, as it also helps develop a feeling of unity and trust. And when your team feels valued, trusted, and heard, it boosts their productivity. Their satisfaction levels rise too when they know that you respect them.
- Provide regular feedback: Next, managers need to provide timely and regular feedback. This is the best way to resolve any problems remote employees may be facing. This will help the staff correct issues early on and perform better. It also helps in building mutual trust between virtual workers and managers.
3. Maintaining Team Relationships
Team relationships are harder to maintain when there are virtual teammates. Lack of physical interaction through attending a shared workspace is a very real and common barrier to effective communication. Remote employees are missing out on an important part of office life – socialisation. They can’t take part in casual conversations and watercooler discussions.
This lack of interaction with colleagues leads to reduced team spirit. As a result, remote workers may be missing trust in other co-workers. For example, they may hesitate when it comes to depend upon them.
The absence of strong team relationships can have serious consequences. It affects the quality of teamwork and performance. When there is little human contact, team members can feel demotivated. This results in lower productivity. So, lack of socialisation affects team collaboration and their motivation and performance too.
Solution: Foster socialisation and casual interactions:
- Help your team develop friendly relationships: The best way to support team relationships is to encourage your virtual team to get to know each other. There are a few ways to help your remote employees build friendly relationships.
- Create more opportunities for interaction: Set up an informal chat room or channel for general conversation. Choose a specific time-slot each week for catching up with everyone within a team. It supports building a team culture. Also, you can start your regular meetings with an informal session. This way, you create an opportunity for team members to interact with each other. And of course, occasional in-person meetings are great in fostering better team relationships.
4. Resolving Conflicts in a Virtual Team
Sometimes it can be hard to identify conflict at work, even more so in remote teams. Yet, bubbling conflict is a common barrier to good communication. You need to pay attention to behavioural changes and other conflict signs. Changes in tonality in emails and messages can signal an existing issue.
The signs can be small. Someone can switch to short messages like ‘OK’ and ‘Sure’ when they used to write longer emails.
A team member can suddenly stop participating in group threads. Or they can start excluding certain people from discussions. It’s a sure sign they are having some problem with someone on the team.
Encouraging employees to improve their communication skills can prevent more problems.
Solution: Be proactive about solving the issues:
- Don’t ignore conflict: Contrary to some people’s beliefs, ignoring an ongoing conflict won’t make it disappear. It is more likely to escalate unless management gets involved. And the earlier, the better.
- Hold a meeting with everyone involved: Schedule a meeting to deal with the remote team’s issue, and make a plan before the actual meeting. Create a draft containing relevant information and final goals. This overview will help your employees get on the same page more easily. Restrain yourself from making a judgment. Instead, summarise the facts you are aware of and state the problem. Then allow every person involved in the conflict to share their perception of what is going on.
- Create an action plan: Once the facts and opinions are out in the open, your goal is to create an action plan with ideas on fixing the problem. You may need some time to come up with an effective strategy, so be clear about the next steps.
- Check the progress: For any solution to work, you need to get everybody on board. Monitor their progress from time to time. Schedule a follow-up meeting to check out how things are going.
Also, checkout ‘Barriers to Effective Communication‘.