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6 Communication Mistakes To Avoid With Your Remote Team

By | Published on | 7 min read
<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >6 Communication Mistakes To Avoid With Your Remote Team</span>

speech bubbles looking sad

Video calls, instant photo sharing, and hundreds of emojis—in an era where we’re more connected than ever, it’s ironic when teams struggle to connect and work remotely. It’s not that teams who struggle to work remotely are inefficient teams, they simply don’t have the correct “remote work hygiene” in place to create a thriving digital workspace.

From bad webcam habits to sloppy chat behavior, your team may unknowingly be participating in a myriad of communication mistakes. Grab your remote work toolbox and let’s start untangling those work from home snafus.

Werk That Webcam

At Trello, the rule for all meetings is, “If one person is on a webcam, we’re all on a webcam.”

When we’re in the physical office this means that even if one person in a meeting is remotely dialing in, everyone involved in the meeting must also remotely dial in—creating a sense of equality so that those not physically present are still treated the same as those in the same building.

GIF of a large video call taking place

While everyone is working from home, a common bad habit is not turning on that video screen and essentially making your meeting a giant phone call.

We get it, you’re at home, you might be wearing an old t-shirt, and the lighting might not be optimal. However, that precious face time is crucial to pick up on facial cues that might convey confusion or happiness—which leads to clearer communication about company changes, that one project, or even just being able to physically sense if a coworker is feeling excited or might be on the verge of burnout.

Not to mention how merely seeing your teammates makes the workday feel more social and connected overall. If a picture is worth a thousand words, turning that webcam on is surely worth a lot more.

@all Is The New Reply-All

No matter which tool you are using, Slack, Email, or Trello, tagging everyone by tagging @all or @here is the equivalent of standing up in the middle of your office and screaming your announcement.

meme that says "brace yourselves, reply all is coming"

If, “@all look at this web page” is not something you’d ordinarily yell in the office, then there’s no reason to create a notification that will ping everyone on an email or chat thread. While it’s understandable that you’d like to call attention to something, realize that an entire team trying to capture everyone’s attention all the time is doing two harmful things to communication:

  1. Too much crying wolf. The constant tags are not associated with actual urgency, so when a real crisis or noteworthy event occurs it will most likely be brushed off as another notification.
  2. Notification fatigue. Whether you get notifications on your desktop, phone, or both, constant notifications aren’t doing anyone’s productivity levels any good.

That being said, tagging your colleagues can be done in a productive way. Try just tagging the stakeholders involved if you have a question, or if it’s more of an announcement, consider creating a chat channel specifically for larger announcements.

Which leads to the next point!

Make Space For Chatter

Do you have a coworker that tends to put too many baby pictures in the team chatroom? Or someone who can’t help but keep posting “very important links” and tag the entire team every.single.time?

Your teammates likely mean well, but irritating chat etiquette is likely a symptom of not having the proper communication channels present within your organization’s tools. Chatting about sports, movies, or showing off baby pics is all part of a typical, buzzy workplace—why should the WFH version of your office be any different?

Rather than try to change your team’s habits, give them the proper spaces to do so. At Trello, we have Slack channels that are work-related or team specific, but we also have channels entirely meant for cute puppy pictures, the latest TV series we’re all watching, and even an announcement channel where only urgent, company-wide news is shared.

Encouraging various channels that range from professional to social not only helps with keeping priorities straight in each channel, it also builds relationships.

With this structure to conversations, you can talk to colleagues in a way that more closely mimics the office social dynamic. This not only helps with morale, it keeps work-related channels focused on the task at hand.

Update That Facebook Status

For some teams, because leaders can’t physically view their teams entering or working in the office, a sense of trust needs to be built surrounding tasks and hours. Without trust comes a slew of issues, such as micromanagement and impostor syndrome.

Building trust among a team means setting expectations for how often you’re checking in with another and making sure everyone’s schedules are transparent. In a physical office, seeing a coworker taking a lunch break would be nothing new—make sure that’s the case in your virtual world as well.

A small but mighty tactic is being transparent about where you are and for how long.

Setting a status update on your chat channel or even simply pinging your team that you’ll be “eating lunch and will be back by 1 pm” is great for setting expectations on your whereabouts.

Going for a short walk? Need to attend to a child for a moment? Creating a system where you can update your current status not only helps to build trust and expectations, it also allows you to feel that flexibility remote work offers.

Checklist It

Micromanagement can also manifest when there seems to be a lack of clarity of who is doing what, and by when. Rather than constantly setting up status meetings or pinging your reports “just in case”, use a collaborative method that minimizes time but offers clarity. The elegant and simple checklist can save the day for teams of any size when it comes to building trust and reaching goals.

Checklists are not only proven to improve focus, but they also enable teams to feel like a team. With Trello’s Advanced Checklists, you can tag teammates and assign each task a due date—just as you would on a card. Seeing the day’s tasks alongside your teammates allows everyone to have a real visual on the projects at hand, fostering a sense of having a common goal.

GIF showing the Advanced Checklist Feature


One Size Messaging Does Not Fit All

An urgent request, an industry-related news article, and the files you need for your latest project. These are all vastly different items that also need vastly different types of messages.

Over communication is just as harmful as under communication (if done incorrectly). As a remote team, it’s paramount to have all the information you need while also being able to focus.

Let’s break down which mediums are best for certain types of communication:

  1. Email: The office mainstay, the tab that everyone has open all the time. Keeping that tab open all the time has its costs—it diminishes productivity and increases context switching from task to task. Workers often keep their email open constantly in case something urgent occurs, but instead, you can get sidetracked responding to other non-urgent issues over your email. Rather than keeping email as the medium for urgent requests, make sure email is only used for non-urgent messages—reaching out to a vendor, a large memo, or a question that can be answered later this week. Increasing productivity means knowing if and when your productivity tools are actually hindering it.

  2. Slack/Instant Messaging: As the name implies, instant messaging is for things that should be somewhat instantly communicated. A quick question or request you’d typically ask someone in the office is something you should defer to your instant messaging platform. Using these tools to exchange files, important links, or company-wide memos means it’s harder to find later, and also creates a distraction from what work needs to be focused on at that very moment.

  3. Trello: A spot to put relevant files, assign roles, and ask for project updates—this is often conveyed via email, however, email threads have a habit of becoming unruly...fast. Using Trello as an information and project management repository is its bread and butter. By being able to tag relevant teammates, use checklists, and moving cards around to show progress, using Trello as a tool to truly work means your team knows who to ask, when deadlines are, and what the progress is so far. Explore the Trello Template Gallery to see various boards you possibly adapt to your team!

The Best Ships Are Friendships

Like any relationship, your colleagues need and deserve trust, open communication, and time to focus. Transitioning into a remote work environment can be a challenge, however, with communication guidelines and expectations put in place, making everyone’s voice heard gets a lot easier. Whether you’re a team of boisterous personalities or a bunch of silent types, making sure the message and tasks get across is key.

Good luck on your remote journey, may your notifications be relevant and your inboxes stress free!

Good or bad, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter (@trello

Next:How To Make Remote Communication More Efficient With Trello And Zoom

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