I had the misfortune (or excitement, depending on how you see it) of being in Toronto, Canada for the 2013 ice storm. The whole city was frozen in a layer of ice and it was almost impossible to go anywhere. But during that time, I still had to work and stay in contact with my team so we could get the job done. Here are the six best things we used during that time — and that we still use to this day.
1. Schedule Regular Chats Throughout the Day
Otherwise known as synchronous communication, this helps keep you in regular contact with your team and gives you a chance to bring important issues forward regularly. It’s awesome because you know that at 10:00 and 2:00, everyone will be around and ready to talk. And if you have any questions you have to ask Pennsylvania Pete or Madrid Maria, this is the time to do it. You’ll be able to get their feedback in real time instead of having to pretend to look busy until they’re available.
2. But Don’t Forget Asynchronous Communication Either
This is the opposite of the above style. Instead of regularly-scheduled chat times, you message a coworker whenever you need to and they read the message when they decide too. I love using this method for when I’ve got questions that aren’t super important. I’ll type out my message, leave it for them to read when they get a chance, and get to doing something else in the meantime. This method totally respects colleagues’ time and leaves it to them to manage how and when to reply.
3. It’s Pretty Difficult to Over-Communicate
When you’re in the same office as everyone else, it’s pretty easy to get on someone’s nerves. All you have to do is stand at their desk and pester them with questions or idle chitchat until they can’t get their own work done. But when working remotely, over-communicating is actually pretty hard and it’s really easy to disappear from their thoughts. If you want Barbara the Boss to know you’re making good progress on your work, you have to update her regularly (and the same goes if you’re running behind and need an extension). The key thing you want to remember is to avoid surprises, so message your coworkers regularly (but not too often) and keep them in the loop.
4. Use Your Team Management App’s Features the Way They’ve Been Designed
Pretty much every team management app has a few features in common:
- Message app/board/forum
But if you don’t use any of them, you might as well stay in your pyjamas and watch cartoons for the rest of the day. If you want to build a successful remote team, make sure everyone’s on the same page by making good use of these features. Encourage your team to post their availability, check off each task they’ve finished, talk to each other and keep each other updated about their progress (and if they have any questions), and keep a regular eye on the calendar to see when everything’s due. I personally hated doing this at first. But like any habit, I got used to it soon enough and it’s an automatic part of my day.
5. Throw In a Couple of Emojis and Gifs
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: there’s no room in business communication for emojis and gifs. And if this was even 5 years ago, you’d be totally right. But we’re in a different time now and the proper use of emojis and gifs can help you get your message across when you have no body language to back you up.
It can also be a way to create inside jokes with your team. Years ago, I took a web programming course and my cohort used Alexa to communicate. One person posted a gif, then another, and soon it became a running inside joke to find the perfect gif for every frustration we were feeling. It helped keep things loose during what was often a stressful, fast-paced course.
6. Make a Big Deal Out of the Small Things
Recently, a coworker of mine went on maternity leave. I got to the office before she did and saw her workstation really decked out with gifts and baby clothes. It was a cool thing to see that she was so well thought of in the office. And while she got plenty of well wishes for her pregnancy, the guy down the hall who was a day early on his assignment didn’t really get much recognition at all.
And that’s okay. Pregnancy is a big deal, but being a day early with your work isn’t. In the office. Remotely, it’s a different thing. When your team doesn’t get to work face-to-face, you’ve got to celebrate the small things a little harder. This way, you keep the rest of the team in the loop about what’s happening with everyone else, make everyone feel important and acknowledged, and keep up morale when it might be flagging behind a screen you can’t see.
When I first started working remotely, it was a tough go at times. There were a lot of bumps in the road as my other work-from-home coworkers and I had to figure out the smoothest way to run things. It’s a lot better now, and it’s because we’ve constantly worked at making things right. If you want to be like Team Tameday and run a well-oiled machine, sign up now to try it for free.
Related: 5 Ways To Manage Your Remote Team