Effective Virtual Communication: 8 Tips for Breaking Barriers
To help you enhance virtual communication among your remote teams, we’ve gathered eight insightful experiences from CEOs and communications managers. From implementing Slack and Canva for global communication to initiating weekly virtual “Coffee Chat” for team building, discover how these leaders have successfully bridged the communication gap across different locations.
- Implement Slack and Canva for Global Communication
- Foster Camaraderie through Informal Calls
- Be Proactive with Cloud-Based Tools and Sessions
- Initiate Meetings with Personal Sharing
- Schedule Regular Stand-Ups for Cross-Time Zone Communication
- Maintain Casual Rapport in Remote Work
- Use an Icebreaker Bot for Casual Interactions
- Hold a Weekly Virtual “Coffee Chat” for Team Building
Implement Slack and Canva for Global Communication
To work effectively remotely across many countries and cultures, good communication is essential. Two of the communication tools we have implemented for successful virtual communication across our organizations are Slack and Canva. These separate but integrated tools allow each of our organizations to stay connected to each other, share updates and stories, and collaborate on content development in a central virtual location.
Both tools have proven invaluable for major campaign events such as the International Coastal Cleanup, where our organization in 13 countries hosted their own local beach or waterway cleanups while utilizing resources, content, and materials crafted collaboratively with these virtual tools. A Rocha’s conservation work is more collaborative, united, and impactful through these tools.
Foster Camaraderie through Informal Calls
With team members located across the world, it has been challenging to ensure everyone feels a sense of unity. Every two weeks, we took time out of the workday for an informal call to “break the ice.” We throw out some fun questions to get to know each other better as people, not just coworkers.
Getting to know one another as individuals has fostered greater comfort and camaraderie within the team. The increased familiarity has translated into smoother communication all around.
Be Proactive with Cloud-Based Tools and Sessions
As an agency that values diversity and inclusivity, and having a team of passionate and skilled individuals dispersed across various locations around the globe, we are no strangers to the potential challenges of virtual communication.
Facing the challenge of efficiently working on a complex branding project with our global team members, we decided to take a proactive approach to improve our virtual communication:
- Flexible Video Conferences: Scheduled during overlapping work times for real-time participation and understanding.
- Cloud-Based Collaboration Tools: We used Teamwork for project management, Slack for communication, and Zoom for face-to-face interaction, ensuring seamless collaboration.
- Team-building Sessions: We held bi-weekly virtual meetings for sharing local culture, which fostered understanding and strengthened bonds.
The above resulted in a significant improvement in our virtual communication, leading to a well-executed, innovative branding project.
Initiate Meetings with Personal Sharing
Choosing to start meetings with a few minutes where everyone just said one thing that went well for them since the last time we talked, in either their work or personal lives, has been beneficial.
Many people have a lot of things they would like to share, but the confines of a virtual meeting make that kind of small talk somewhat difficult.
By creating a formalized forum for those kinds of bits and pieces of our lives, virtual communication has become just that little bit friendlier between groups of people that often work together but rarely see each other.
Schedule Regular Stand-Ups for Cross-Time Zone Communication
In my experience, the most useful communication tool for improving virtual communication is having regular stand-ups. Stand-ups are regular meetings where staff tell everyone what they have been working on, what they plan to do next, and what is holding them up.
This is especially important when working with staff across different time zones, as it earmarks a certain time for everyone to come together, giving everyone a chance to communicate.
After the stand-up, further collaboration is encouraged, and people can address issues or expand upon ideas shared during the stand-up, ensuring smooth communication.
In my experience, staff prefer sharing issues during the stand-up, compared to informally doing so, as they can incorporate ideas from everyone at once, helping the team stay more connected despite physical distances.
Maintain Casual Rapport in Remote Work
When a dispersed workforce became the norm, my employees made the transition professionally—a little too professionally, actually.
In their effort to appear dedicated to the work at hand, they often resorted to stilted “business speak.” In the office, we all spoke casually to one another, but suddenly, Slack messages read like formal correspondence. It was as if everyone had a renewed desire to prove themselves polished and business-minded.
Communication suffered as we navigated this new setup, and eventually, I had to remind my workforce that they had nothing to worry about. I trusted them as employees, even from their living rooms! Only then did we regain the rapport we’d enjoyed previously.
Use an Icebreaker Bot for Casual Interactions
Technology is your friend for improving virtual communications, even something pretty simple. Icebreaker Bot is a good example. This was a Teams plugin that allowed you to put people in a team and then have it randomize 15-minute meetings between people to simulate running into each other at the water cooler or break room.
It worked incredibly well, letting people break down silos and speak with people from around the office that they’d normally never get a chance to chat with. It made the communication better than in the office, in my opinion.
Hold a Weekly Virtual “Coffee Chat” for Team Building
Certainly, I once implemented a weekly virtual “Coffee Chat” session to enhance communication among employees in different locations. These sessions were informal video calls where team members could join for casual conversations. We assigned a different team member as the host each week, allowing them to choose discussion topics or icebreakers.
This initiative successfully improved virtual communication by fostering a sense of camaraderie and connection among team members. It provided a platform for people to get to know each other beyond work-related discussions and built stronger relationships.
Over time, these virtual coffee chats became an anticipated part of our routine, enhancing teamwork and collaboration despite geographical distances.
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