When teams work remotely, and are dispersed across multiple locations, team members can become isolated and cut off from their team coworkers. This can stunt communication, since it is not generated as a natural byproduct of working in the same location together every day. So how do you ensure you keep them communicating as much as they would when in the office? You have to get them used to using different communication channels in place of traditional face-to-face time. It often can take some forced effort until you get them in the habit.
- During team phone calls, allow time at the beginning or end to allow small talk. Initiate this small talk by throwing out questions to get everyone participating.
- Pair up team members on small projects or tasks that require them to communicate via phone. Have them come up with ways to combat competitor products, or have them find a solution to an issue and present to the team.
- Have senior team members mentor new members through scheduled weekly conversations.
- Have team members post items on the company Intranet, including blogs, wiki’s, and discussion boards, to share ideas and accomplishments.
- Encourage employees to use IM for quick drop-in type questions
- Have employees use web cameras, whenever possible during conference calls, so team members can have some visual interaction
There are many tools you can provide for your team to use to communicate when not in the same office. However, you will most likely have to encourage their use until they are communicating as frequently as being in the same location. It is also good to ensure they do not only rely on the electronic tools such as email, IM, and intranet, and that they are including just as much phone communication as other types.