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Tips on how to enhance communication together with your distant group

Here are three communication tips to increase productivity, empathy, and performance of a remote team.

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December
1, 2020

4 min read

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Remote work worked.

Halo Top, the reduced-calorie ice cream brand, grew from $ 230,000 in sales in 2013 to over $ 100 million in 2018, and achieved that growth with all 75 employees working remotely.

Remote work has to work.

83 percent of office workers want to work from home at least one day a week, and 55 percent of employers anticipate that most of their employees will do so long after the health crisis is not a problem. Global Workplace Analytics predicts that 30 million US employees will regularly work from home over the next two years, six times as many as before.

Remote work must be done.

Forty-four percent of senior executives are "completely confident" that their companies can maintain employee engagement on assignments at home, but only 25 percent of employees feel the same. And 48 percent of senior executives are “completely confident” that they can maintain good communication between themselves and employees during the crisis, while only 28 percent of employees agree.

Workers do not return to the same job that they left behind. All employees need to find new ways to work together, connect, and perhaps most importantly … communicate. Here are three ways to improve communication with your remote team.

1. Schedule the times for “bursty” communication

A "bursting" communication style, in which ideas are communicated and answered quickly, leads to a performance increase of 24 percent for remote teams.

A remote team can cultivate burstiness by identifying a common day and time (e.g., Tuesday 3pm to 4pm EST) when the entire team is online and ready to engage in team communication. By using communication channels such as text, chat or email synchronously instead of asynchrony in times of burstiness, teams can achieve higher performance. Productivity and engagement increase when team members know someone is ready to act on their communication immediately.

Scheduling activity spurts is especially important for teams that are spread across different time zones or have different work schedules. Burstiness differs from meetings in that there is no set agenda and the central goal is the rapid exchange of information and / or ideas.

Burstiness enables remote team members to direct their activities where the result is energetic and purposeful collaboration.

2. Clarify the emotional intent of the communication

Vague digital communications such as "sure" or "good" can result in recipients spending unproductive time and energy reading the emotional intent behind the text. In fact, 90 percent of people think their emails and texts are understood by recipients, but only 50 percent understand their messages. With increasing digital communication, the lack of facial expressions and tone of voice leaves more room for misinterpretation. For example, an email or two-word text is interpreted as sarcastic 60 percent of the time.

When the intent of a message is not clear, people fill in the blanks with a negative bias and assume the worst. To avoid negative prejudices from misusing the intended meaning of your digital communication, clarify the emotional intent of your communication.

Here are two ways to clarify the emotional intent of your communication:

3. Communicate using only language

Speech-only communication improves emphatic accuracy. When working remotely, it is tempting to turn on video for every interaction. However, if you want to know what someone is feeling, it might be better to just hear their voice. In experiments, people read other people's emotions more closely when the room lighting has been switched off or the video feed has been deactivated. In the absence of virtual cues, users are more likely to focus on the content of the conversation and the tone of voice of the person speaking.

If you choose to turn off the video while communicating, introverts can do a wider contribution. Introverts are more sensitive to stimuli, and constant eye contact or visual stimuli can be overwhelming and stressful for them.

Video communication is very useful, especially when you are building trust with someone. However, if confidence is being established, consider using only language. The next time they're asked which video platform you'd prefer for the meeting, share them with audio.

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