Effective communication is the key to the success of virtual teams. The nature of remote working teams is such that your team members will likely face many communication barriers which they will have to overcome.
Poor communication in virtual teams can cause low employee morale and a decrease in productivity. Encourage your remote working team members to engage in two way communication and ask questions when they receive new information.
The following are 7 communication barriers that your remote working team will have to overcome:
- Team Members Not Contributing During Virtual Team Meetings
- No Communication Outside of the Virtual Team Meetings
- Lack of Communication Ground Rules
- Too Many Virtual Team Meetings
- Not Being Aware of Digital Body Language
- Redoing the Work from Remote Working Team Members
- No Agenda or Structure for Virtual Team Meetings
Virtual Team Communication Barriers
Team Members Not Contributing During Virtual Team Meetings
One of the big challenges in virtual team meetings is to get all the team members to contribute to the discussion. Unless it is addressed, the same team members will be the ones that are speaking up at every team meeting. In virtual team meetings, this communication barrier is more pronounced since everybody is not together in the same physical location.
When leading a virtual team meeting you must ensure that all the remote working team members are contributing. One effective way of doing this is to ask each of the team members to answer a question in turn so that everyone gets a chance to speak.
No Communication Outside of the Virtual Team Meetings
Although remote working teams can go days without talking to each other, it is a sign that the virtual team isn’t communicating well. The more your team members talk to each other, the more they will trust each other.
Encourage your team to communicate with each other during the day, even if it is something quick like a GIF to the group chat. Checking in with each other is an important part of building camaraderie and better communication in the remote working team.
Lack of Communication Ground Rules
Without some ground rules for communication in your virtual team, communication will not happen as freely and effectively as you want it to.
This will include rules about everybody’s work hours and breaks. For example, everyone could be on the same Google calendar and update the rest of the team when they are not available. Whatever the method, make sure that it is communicated to everyone.
You could also set ground rules for email communication. Such as getting the team members to make it clear when an email needs a response and when it does not.
Setting expectations and ground rules will help improve communication among your remote working team.
Too Many Virtual Team Meetings
Having too many meetings can sometimes be a symptom of poor communication. On most occasions, virtual teams shouldn’t have to meet several times a week. Much of what is shared in meetings can be sent in an email.
As the team leader, before scheduling a meeting, consider whether the meeting is necessary, or will it waste time. Will everyone that you invite be able to attend? Can you make the meeting shorter?
Be intentional when you plan a virtual team meeting.
Not Being Aware of Digital Body Language
The importance of body language is oftentimes forgotten when you’re communicating through video conferencing. You will have to pay more attention to body language as nothing on camera is subtle and it can feel like you have a spotlight on you.
Some of the body language basics to keep in mind are maintaining eye contact, speaking clearly, and having video on during remote calls.
Redoing the Work from Remote Working Team Members
If you find that you are redoing work done by your team, it could be a sign that you are not communicating effectively. If assignments come back with errors, it is likely that that the expectations weren’t communicated clearly.
If you redo a team member’s work, it may be a sign that you feel comfortable sending the edits. This again points to a communication problem.
No Agenda or Structure for Virtual Team Meetings
Effective communication during a virtual team meeting is difficult if you don’t have an agenda or meeting structure. To host a productive online meeting, the meeting should be organized and structured. An agenda will ensure that your meeting is kept on track.
Try and send the agenda before the start of the meeting if it is not a scheduled meeting. You can implement five minutes of informal chat before the meeting starts for team members to catch up with each other. This will help keep the focus on the meeting agenda when the meeting formally starts.
For all the benefits of remote working teams there are also challenges that your team will encounter. Communication is one of them and your team will need to find ways to overcome the barriers to effective communication that exists in a virtual team setting.
We have found that a virtual team building event is a very effective tool to promote effective communication in remote working teams. These activities help your team members to get to know each other better, get all the team members to participate, and help to get everybody comfortable with the online conferencing software that the team uses.