Tool guide for remote team communications
A good communication tool guideline for remote teams will include all the different tools that can be used to overcome the limitations of remote team communications. It ensures lines of communication with your distributed team are always open to enhance collaboration and teamwork so that distributed teams can truly achieve their full potential. Here’s an example of what an effective internal communications strategy might look like, with options of applications and recommendations of usage.
Chat – Slack, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp
In a nutshell: Ideal for instant and persistent chats organized by topic, which usually require a more immediate answer than emails. This applies to group and one-on-one conversations. Chat applications are convenient if you want to keep long conversations ongoing. Chats can also be escalated to live calls and meetings with voice, screen sharing, and videos which are essential to remote team communications.
Insider tip #1: Platforms such as WhatsApp works for short, personal messages. For more professional conversations, we recommend Slack for startups, then Microsoft Team as your business grows. You could also use these applications for non-work-related topics to avoid using too many applications. Alternatively, for a dedicated social platform, check out Facebook Workspace or Microsoft Yammer.
Insider tip #2: Set time frames when you expect replies to avoid frustration.
Insider tip #3: For urgent matters, just pick up the phone and call. Avoid sending the same messages via different platforms.
Email – Google Gmail, Microsoft Outlook
In a nutshell: Emails are suitable for third-party communications that are more formal, official, structured, often longer and most likely for messages that do not require an immediate response.
Insider tip #1: Communicate the difference between email and chat applications, otherwise you could create confusion regarding when to use what. An email would be focused on a specific message from one person towards an audience, but chats are more conversational, allowing a more balanced participation.
Insider tip #2: Keep in mind that people receive tons of emails, so chats or calls are better for urgent messages.
Calendar – Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook + Calendly
In a nutshell: Most email applications come with an integrated calendar feature that maintains the value of email applications, despite the recent decline in email value.
In order to give people enough time to prepare and discuss important subjects, it is always advisable to plan meetings in advance. Also, for remote participants, meetings will become a regular communication tool as invitations usually contain the link to virtual meeting rooms.
Insider tip #1: We recommend sticking to one office application suite; go for Google G-Suite if you’re a startup, then Microsoft Office 365 for more established businesses.
Insider tip #2: We also suggest using a meeting-booking application such as Calendly to avoid the back and forth with external contacts to agree on a suitable date and time for your meeting.
Virtual meetings – Zoom, Hangout + Calendly
In a nutshell: Virtual meetings or online meetings are mandatory when at least one of the participants is remote or when their location is unknown. Even if some chat applications offer a decent virtual meeting/conferencing experience, dedicated applications tend to deliver specific features, integration, support and service quality that justify their implementation.
Insider tip #1: We recommend Zoom (+ Calendly) for startups as Google Hangouts is not as feature-rich; it can also be used by larger companies as an alternative to Microsoft Teams, which is still facing some challenges for meetings with external participants. However, it’s likely only a matter of time before Microsoft becomes the number one platform for all work-related applications for medium to large businesses, while Google fights for the smaller business market.
Insider tip #2: Make this a habit to always include online meeting links in your calendar invitation when participant location is unknown.
Project management – Google Task, Trello, Asana, Basecamp, TeamWeek
In a nutshell: Project management tools are especially useful when you have a distributed team because it allows the team to see what everyone is doing and how is the progress without having to ask every time. Everyone can log their progress in one place and it’s clear and actionable for the whole team.
Insider tip #1: For project management purposes, Google Task can create very simple to-do lists for team members to refer to. Use Basecamp, Trello, TeamWeek or Asana if you need additional features such as project tracking, advanced and custom structure or integrations.
Calls – Zoom, Google Voice, Hangout, WhatsApp
In a nutshell: We sometimes forget the basics: the most effective way for remote team communications is to pick the phone and talk! An additional benefit is that phone calls don’t rely on internet network stability.
Insider tip #1: Most virtual meeting or online voice applications like Zoom integrate phone conferencing numbers for multi-participant conversations.
Insider tip #2: When you have access to a stable internet network, using online audio (VoIP) from Zoom, Hangout or WhatsApp will allow you to escalate from voice to video call with ease – and it will save on telecommunication costs, especially when you’re traveling.
Document storage and collaboration – Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, Google Drive
In a nutshell: Long gone are the days when we were managing file storage and back-ups with expensive hard drives. Now, many solutions exist to store your documents across your entire organization with very easy saving and sharing features. Even editing a document is now possible online and that’s where Microsoft did a fantastic job recently with the Office integration (Word, PowerPoint, Excel…) into Office 365.
Insider tip #1: Google is still very competitive with Google Drive for storage and powerful online document collaboration features (Sheets, Docs, Slides, Forms…). These are not only ideal for internal communications, but also external document sharing.
Now you know all about different apps and programs that you can use to communicate with a remote team but having the right programs are not enough, here are the strategies on how to communicate effectively with remote team we have put together.