Companies who have multiple locations and remote teams face three significant barriers to communication – technical, interpersonal and logistical. Below I offer solutions to the latter two.

Interpersonal: There is a natural interpersonal tension when it comes to communication between teams located in different locations and that tension lies between the urgency of “get ‘er done” and taking the time to acknowledge and get to know one another. Here are four key ways to address this tension:

  1. First communication of the day – check in as if you were face to face, Rest of the day – task oriented, don’t take personally if cut straight to the chase.
  2. Consider having brown bag lunch or taking a break with someone from another location once a monthVIA VIDEO. Face to face communication is incredibly powerful because
    • 93% of communication is non-verbal
    • Eye contact is chief among the body’s non-verbal cues
    • “Facial recognition stimulates the emotional regions of the brain where agreement, consternation, joy, play, pleasure and seriousness are found.” Howard Lichtman of the Human Productivity Lab
  3. There’s nothing more frustrating than to be in the middle of your workflow and you need a piece of information from a team member and you reach out and… crickets, no answer, no response. When you can’t get ahold of someone to respond to your question –
    • Be patient, get Zen and breathe. I know – patience isn’t my virtue either.
    • Be empathetic – give your cohort the benefit of the doubt and trust their intentions.
  4. Be brave and communicate as soon as possible when things go sideways with a co-worker.

Logistical: The logistics for remote communication can at times feel overwhelming. I would suggest that a simple communication plan that includes the following can be incredibly helpful:

  1. Ground Rules – explicitly state what’s expected of each team member
  2. Availability agreement
    • What’s realistic/reasonable/required?
    • Time zone work hours overlap – how take advantage?
    • Touch base 2x’s/day? Specific times?
  3. Common language to communicate priority – urgency/important, for example:
    • ASAP
    • 2 – Today
    • 3 – Within 24 hours
  4. One single, updateable location for all basic project logistics
    • Project tasks and deadlines
    • Who’s on the project and work hours
    • Who is responsible for which tasks
    • Status of tasks
  5. Agreement on and use of just a few technical tool options
  6. Clarity on when one should use which technological tool. For example:
    • If simple task, e-mail or IM
    • If complex, voice to voice
    • If sensitive, face to face via video
  7. Ideally a “Company way” of remote communication rather than individual preferences

What ways have you or your company found to improve interpersonal or logistical communication between team members working in different locations?