Whether working from home is a dream come true for you or a waking nightmare, there’s no denying it requires some adjustments. One of the biggest adjustments is how remote work impacts team communication.
The removal of shared office spaces also removes the chance for in-person discussions. And as many of us have recently discovered, remote team communication has its fair share of pitfalls and stressors that global and distributed teams must learn how to navigate.
More than ever, teams and individuals are struggling with problems like email fatigue from an overwhelm of messaging; miscommunication (and misinterpreted “telephone” moments); as well as a sense of disconnection that can lead to blurred lines, burnout, and more.
Fortunately, working this way doesn’t have to be so challenging. There are better ways to manage communications and succeed while working remotely. Let’s discuss how to approach remote team communication in order to be an effective team member, while also protecting your own mental health.
Below are some tips and tools to help you manage team communications and your own workload while working remotely.
How to Overcome Remote Work Challenges and Manage Team Communication Like a Boss
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Problem #1: Email Fatigue
We don’t need to tell you twice that email has historically been, and remains, a default form of communication.
The problem is that there’s often too much of it. And with teams working remotely, this problem only intensifies. There’s less opportunity to discuss things in person and it sometimes seems easier to send an email than schedule a meeting.
So, you end up with an onslaught of messages—of varying degrees of importance. But when there are so many emails showing up in your inbox, even the most important ones start to fall through the cracks.
The culprit is email volume—and email fatigue. Whether there’s too much back and forth in a single thread, emails about emails to include and catch up with relevant people, or way too many individual messages coming through, email fatigue is a common problem for anyone working at a fast-paced, high-volume, enterprise organization.
The solution? Take back control of your inbox.
The only guaranteed way to reduce email fatigue is to reduce email. Of course, this is easier said than done if you rely on traditional email clients.
But with a smart platform like SEDNA, you can effectively reduce the amount of email you receive—and prevent email fatigue—without sacrificing communication. To get a better understanding of how SEDNA helps you take back control of your inbox, read about how Monson Agencies reduced their email by 90%.
Here are a few more inbox tips to consider:
If you don’t already, keep your professional and personal inboxes separate.
Unsubscribe from non-essential newsletters and manage your mailing lists.
Use a tool like Unroll.Me to organize subscriptions to industry magazines or newsletters that you don’t want to unsubscribe from, but don’t necessarily want to clog up your inbox either.
Ask to be removed from chains that aren’t relevant to you (or mute the conversation).
Problem #2: Disorganized Communication
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On top of email fatigue, many remote teams are struggling with fragmented communication. A big part of the problem is that traditional email wasn’t built for teamwork—let alone distributed teamwork. It’s not easy to balance keeping everyone in the loop with maintaining a lean inbox.
This issue might present in the form of too many different email threads for a single project; too many separate apps for messaging team members; or too much back and forth over a specific detail. Plus, with traditional email it’s difficult to keep track of who’s seen which messages and if the right departments are CC’d.
The solution? Streamline and consolidate conversations and data.
Remote teams can organize team communication with the right approach and tools. And you don’t need to scrap your existing workflows to take advantage of modern communication software. (After all, the goal is to consolidate online communication, not further complicate it).
If you already rely heavily on email, consider the benefits of being able to tag colleagues and comment directly on threads within your inbox—which is exactly what SEDNA allows you to do. Our smart team communication software replaces the siloed inboxes of traditional email with a shared inboxes and collaborative workflows.
SEDNA’s shared inbox is built for high-volume and distributed teams that will benefit from transparent communication. By allowing you to tag individuals, teams, or categories, SEDNA saves time, boosts productivity, and keeps email communication organized and instantly searchable. Plus, it’s easy to ensure only relevant parties are tagged, so you no longer have to worry about getting CC’d on unnecessary emails.
Problem #3: Coordinating Across Time Zones
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With increasingly distributed global teams, it’s likely that some of your team members are on completely different schedules than you. In many ways, this is a hugely positive change that opens up new opportunities for businesses and individuals. Companies are no longer limited by geographical constraints when hiring new talent; knowledge workers have the potential to live and work from just about anywhere.
However, the rise of remote work also means that the disparity between various colleagues’ schedules and time zones is likely to grow. This poses challenges for scheduling calls, maintaining open lines of communication, and keeping everyone up to date at every stage of long-term or complex projects.
The solution? Normalize—and master—asynchronous communication.
The best way to manage the challenges of asynchronous team communication is to embrace them. In other words, normalize asynchronous communication. Operate on the assumption that different team members will read and reply to messages at different times of the day.
For your team, this can be something as simple as making note of which employees are in which time zones (perhaps by encouraging everyone to include time zones in their email signatures or online display names). This helps set expectations by clarifying that certain team members aren’t likely to reply until the next day. You should also build in extra lead time on projects that require close communication with a colleague on the other side of the world.
Problem #4: Missing the Human Element
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Feeling isolated from colleagues is one of the biggest complaints about remote work. In fact, according to Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work survey, the “biggest struggle with working remotely” is a tie between loneliness (20%) and collaboration and communication difficulties (20%). If not addressed, this lack of connection can lead to poor morale, reduced job satisfaction, mental health problems, and lower productivity.
The solution? Connect and build relationships virtually.
Remote communication isn’t just about efficiency (though that is a crucial component of it for distributed teams); it’s also about connection. Find ways to bring everyone together (virtually, of course) around a single cause or event. Whether that means hosting an online game night or celebrating a job well done with a virtual pizza party, it’s important to find little ways to build relationships with remote team members.
A secondary solution: Default to assuming the best intentions.
People make mistakes. Miscommunication is a part of life—in the office or online. Whether someone doesn’t respond to you as quickly as you’d like or you receive constructive feedback that reads more like hate mail than a helpful hint, you can save yourself a ton of mental anguish and energy by assuming everyone has the best intentions.
So, why not default to being patient? Everyone is adjusting and struggling on some level during the pandemic. Remember that your colleagues are human. And grant yourself the same sense of compassion if you make an embarrassing typo or forget to update a task’s status.
Problem #5: Lack of Defined Workday
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Another common issue for remote workers—especially those who literally work from home—is the inability to separate work life from home life. Whether you end up working extra hours because your office is right there or you check your work email late into the night, failure to ever fully “clock out” can lead to burnout and increased stress.
The solution? Allow yourself to fully disconnect after work.
Always disconnect at the end of the day. If necessary, communicate to your team when your office hours are and when you’ll be away. On days off, set your auto-reply to let colleagues know you’re not available. Even if your time off consists of a staycation or you’re stuck at home, you need that distinction between work and leisure time to prevent burnout.
Take breaks throughout the day as you would in an office environment. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb or leave it at home while you go for a walk.
Enter SEDNA: The Solution for Remote Team Communication
If you’re new to remote work or struggling with email fatigue, know that managing remote team communication doesn’t have to be tedious and overwhelming. With the right tools and processes in place, you don’t need to sacrifice quality of communication for brevity.
SEDNA is built specifically to combat the problems of email volume and email fatigue, and unify team communication and workflows. SEDNA makes it easier for global and distributed workplaces to connect and collaborate more efficiently across different teams and time zones.