Every weekend, my friends and I have online video calls to catch-up with each other.
Sometimes it feels like certain people dominate the conversation and others don't feel comfortable speaking up.
These types of communication issues via remote conversations are actually normal.
In fact, for remote teams communication with co-workers is a challenge that remote workers face daily.
Additionally, according to HubSpot's findings, non-HubSpot remote workers noted a lack of social connection (29%) and communicating with co-workers (29%) as the two biggest challenges they face being remote.
When your team can't be in the same space, communication needs to become more intentional. So, how do you do that? And how do you know when your communication needs some work?
Below, let's review some signs that your remote team isn't communicating as effectively as possible.
Signs Your Remote Team is Communicating Ineffectively
- Your team has too many meetings.
- You've never thought about digital body language.
- Team members don't contribute during online team meetings.
- Your team isn't collaborating.
- There's no communication throughout the day.
- Emails are overly complicated.
- There's no agenda or meeting structure.
- Your team doesn't use Working With Me documents.
- Norms for communication haven't been established.
- Your team hasn't built psychological safety.
- Your team doesn't express appreciation for one another.
- Managers redo work from team members.
- Assignments fall through the cracks.
- Your team has a high turnover rate.
1. Your team has too many meetings.
As a remote worker, I know I've had days where I jump from meeting to meeting with no time for a break. Sometimes, this can actually be a symptom of poor communication.
Typically, your team shouldn't have to meet several times a week. In fact, plenty of meetings can be sent in an email.
Before scheduling a meeting, think about whether that meeting will waste time. If you aren't sure, then reevaluate whether the content can be sent in an email.
Additionally, keep in mind when you schedule a meeting that every person you invited needs to be there. If not, let them know it's optional. Plus, think about the length of your meetings. If it can be shorter, make it shorter.
Regardless, it's important to be intentional when you're planning remote meetings.
2. You've never thought about digital body language.
When you're communicating via video conferencing, it can be easy to forget about digital body language.
However, it's important to keep in mind that nothing on camera is subtle and it can feel like you have a spotlight on you.
That means you have to pay even more attention to body language.
For instance, you should still maintain eye contact, speak clearly, and have your video on during remote calls.
3. Team members don't contribute during online team meetings.
Have you ever been to a meeting where the same people speak up and other team members don't?
This can be a symptom of poor communication on your team because it might mean that some team members don't feel comfortable talking during meetings.
On the other hand, it's important to keep in mind that some people are more introverted than others.
To ensure that all team members are contributing, consider asking everyone a question and going round-robin so everyone has a chance to speak.
4. Your team isn't collaborating.
Do you collaborate with your team when the opportunity arises? As a manager, do you notice that your team isn't collaborating?
If collaboration isn't happening, this could be a sign that team members don't feel comfortable reaching out to each other.
Additionally, this could mean that your team doesn't have the tools they need to collaborate effectively.
For example, on the HubSpot blog team, we use Trello to keep track of our editorial assignments. With this tool, writers can easily collaborate with other team members when they want to lean on them for expertise.
5. There's no communication throughout the day.
In previous remote roles, I was able to go days without talking to another coworker. While the introverted part of my personality loved that, it was a sign that our team wasn't communicating well.
The more you talk to people on your team, the more trust you'll have. This makes it easier to reach out when you need help. That's why it's important to make sure your team feels comfortable communicating throughout the day -- even if it's just to send a GIF to the group chat.
While you don't want to inundate your team with messages, checking in every so often is important for camaraderie and team communication.
6. Emails are overly complicated.
Emails should always be simple, clear, and specific. If you're writing an email and it's overly complicated, you might want to schedule a quick Zoom meeting with that person.
To communicate effectively, it's important to know what channel to use to deliver your message. Sometimes it works in an email, but sometimes it requires a meeting.
7. There's no agenda or meeting structure.
If you don't have an agenda or meeting structure, you might not be communicating effectively during your meetings.
Meetings should be organized and structured so they're productive. Having an agenda will keep you on track.
You might even want to schedule in the five minutes of informal chat before a meeting gets started. This will help team members self-regulate.
If it's possible, you should always send the agenda prior to the meeting.
However, this isn't necessary with regularly scheduled meetings. For those, just make sure you've set expectations.
8. Your team doesn't use "Working With Me" documents.
Every member on your team should have a "Working With Me" document that details work habits, expectations, and even interests.
These documents are helpful for managers to learn about their team so they can properly manage communication among various team members.
Additionally, you can also share these with everyone on the team so coworkers can get to know their teammates better.
Knowing each other's work habits will help build trust and psychological safety on your team.
Instead of spending time trying to figure people out, your team can just talk about it.
9. Norms for communication haven't been established.
If you've ever been stressed about communicating with your remote team, that's probably because norms for communication haven't been established.
For example, everyone's work hours and breaks should be clear. This could mean that everyone is on the same Google calendar or they've added a status on their Slack so people know that they aren't available.
Whatever your team's method is, make sure that's communicated among everyone.
Additionally, it might be wise to set expectations in your emails. When you send an email that doesn't need a response, you might want to call that out.
Setting expectations and norms will help improve communication immensely.
10. Your team hasn't built psychological safety.
If there's no psychological safety on your team, then you aren't communicating effectively.
On remote teams, sometimes it can be hard to feel included. However, the option to be included is so important.
When people don't feel included, they won't feel comfortable speaking up.
To build psychological safety in a remote meeting, make sure you go round-robin so everyone has a chance to speak.
Additionally, try to focus on bigger picture conversations and ask people specific questions.
Plus, you can do a "This or That" activity. Doing a quick icebreaker where everyone has to go around and answer a question can help people feel confident about communicating with the team.
11. Your team doesn't express appreciation for one another.
Forming connections is paramount for communication.
One of the best ways to do this is to express gratitude for each other. For example, people should feel free to congratulate each other in a group chat.
Additionally, you can send birthday cards or just create an email thread of appreciation.
Expressing gratitude is a great way to renew your energy and create a safe space on your team.
12. Managers redo work from team members.
If you're a manager and you've found yourself redoing work from your team, that means you aren't communicating effectively.
When assignments are sent back with errors, typically this means that the assignment wasn't clear and expectations weren't communicated.
If you ever redo someone's work, that shows that you might not feel comfortable sending edits.
Again, the problem here is all about communication. The only way to improve this process is to … you guessed it, communicate with each other.
13. Assignments fall through the cracks.
Have you ever had an assignment just fall through the cracks? Or perhaps you're unsure where you left off on a project.
When this happens, it's clear that you aren't using a great project management tool that enables communication.
With project management tools, you should be able to see what stage a project is on and collaborate with others right in the tool. By improving communication, assignments won't fall through the cracks.
14. Your team has a high turnover rate.
If your team has a high turnover rate, that could mean that your communication isn't effective. When this happens, it's important to talk to your team so you can figure out what's working and what isn't.
While working remotely can make communication feel harder, it doesn't have to be that way. If your team is communicating ineffectively, you can use these productivity tips to help.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in May, 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.