Effective communication is critical for any team but becomes even more important when managing virtual or remote teams. Virtual communication requires specific skills and practices to be effective. In this article, we’ll review Virtual Team Communication Strategies , the top strategies for optimizing communication in virtual teams, best practices for communicating virtually, and how to communicate with remote employees.
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Why Virtual Team Communication Matters?
Virtual and remote teams have become increasingly common, with remote work growing by over 170% since 2005. By 2025, it’s estimated that 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely. While virtual teams enable organizations to leverage talent anywhere, communication and collaboration are more difficult without regular face-to-face interactions.
Strong virtual team communication and remote team communication help avoid these pitfalls by:
- Keeping all members updated on priorities, deadlines, and responsibilities
- Allowing for quick clarification when confusion arises
- Fostering better collaboration through the sharing of ideas and expertise
- Making team members feel valued through regular feedback
- Building relationships and trust despite physical distance
With deliberate effort and focus on virtual communication skills, virtual teams can communicate as effectively as co-located groups. The strategies below outline proven best practices for communicating virtually and remote team communication strategies.
What is Virtual Communication?
Virtual communication is any communication between individuals or teams that occurs remotely through digital channels rather than in person. It utilizes technology tools such as email, instant messaging, video conferencing, collaboration software, and more. Virtual communication enables those working remotely or geographically separated to communicate effectively and share information.
Top 7 Virtual Team Communication Strategies
1. Set Clear Goals and Expectations
Undefined or vague objectives lead to ambiguity about what needs to be achieved. Setting clear goals is critical for alignment with virtual and remote teams. Prepare a list of SMART goals and share these objectives across the group. Also, clarify individual roles and responsibilities. Doing so eliminates guesswork and ensures all members direct efforts toward shared outcomes.
2. Over-Communicate Important Information
When working remotely, missing key details is easy, especially with email overload. Combat this by over-communicating critical information through multiple channels. Send details over email but also mention in video meetings. Store in team sites and project management tools. Set calendar reminders about deadlines. Over-communication helps ensure comprehension and prevent forgetfulness.
3. Provide Ongoing Feedback
With seeing team members daily, it’s easier to provide real-time feedback. However, regular input is essential for catching issues early and improving performance. Schedule one-on-one meetings to discuss recent work and offer recognition. Conduct reviews after project milestones. And provide channels for instant feedback through tools like Slack. The more touchpoints, the better for virtual teams and remote teams.
4. Encourage Informal Communication
Informal chat around the water cooler builds relationships but rarely happens remotely. Instituting casual check-ins enables the same bonding. Start video meetings with personal updates or icebreakers. Share fun facts on Slack. Take time for socializing in off-topic messaging channels. And schedule virtual happy hours to converse casually. Informal communication leads to greater trust and better collaboration.
5. Clarify Communication Mediums and Response Times
Determine standard channels for types of communication and establish expected response times. For example, use Slack for quick questions and email for formal discussions. Set a policy to acknowledge Slack messages within 1 hour. Doing so helps clarity about where and how to reach team members. This clarity is instrumental when working across time zones.
6. Document Key Information
With limited face time, it’s essential to document discussions and decisions. Save important emails and meeting notes where everyone can access them. Maintain up-to-date project plans in shared drives. Add context to calendar invites. The more information captured digitally, the less likely it is to misremember. Enable easy reference to minimize repeating conversations.
7. Utilize Collaboration Tools
Specialized tools facilitate seamless virtual teamwork. Platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams enable instant messaging, while Asana and Trello optimize task management—Zoom and Whereby power video meetings. Tools provide structure and visibility, often missing when not co-located. Take advantage of technology purpose-built for remote teams.
Making Virtual Communication More Effective
Beyond core strategies, minor tweaks can further optimize team interactions:
- Begin meetings with open-ended check-ins to uncover concerns
- Summarize action items and next steps before closing
- Review critical details at the start of each session as a refresher
- Share calendars and indicate the best methods/times to connect
- Notify the team of upcoming vacations and coverage
- Establish a #questions channel for help anytime
- Send recaps after meetings to confirm shared understanding
With deliberate effort, virtual and remote teams can communicate as effectively as traditional teams. It requires moving from casual conversations to structured coordination. But by implementing the right strategies and focusing on virtual communication skills, managers can ensure all members remain connected, aligned, and productive.
How to Communicate with Remote Employees
Here are some best practices for communicating effectively with remote team members:
– Have regular video calls to discuss work and provide feedback
– Use instant messaging tools like Slack for quick communication
– Send meeting recaps and document all essential information in writing
– Solicit input and feedback from individuals frequently
– Encourage casual conversations and socializing informally
– Overcommunicate important details through multiple channels
– Be transparent about priorities, plans, and expectations
– Respond promptly to messages and communication
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some challenges of communication in virtual teams?
Key challenges include building relationships with in-person contact, lack of visibility into work progress, siloed information, less organic collaboration, and ambiguity around responsibilities.
How often should virtual teams communicate?
There is no ideal frequency, but daily check-ins via instant messaging and weekly video meetings are generally recommended. One-on-one meetings every two weeks also help. Ongoing chat plus structured sessions provide necessary touchpoints.
What communication tools work best for virtual teams?
Top tools include Slack or Teams for instant messaging, Zoom or Whereby for video meetings, Asana or Trello for task coordination, and shared drives for document access. Using tools designed for remote collaboration is critical.
How can I build relationships in remote teams?
Schedule informal chats for socializing, incorporate icebreakers and personal updates into meetings, send appreciative messages, organize virtual social events, use always-on messaging channels, and interact casually. Relationship-building requires deliberate effort.
What information should be documented for virtual teams?
Meeting notes, project plans, design documents, conversation recaps, requirements, policies, contact lists, role descriptions, and calendars should be documented digitally and accessible. The more information captured in writing, the better.