The Challenges in Remote Communication (and How to Overcome Them)

Remote communication has its perks, but it can make internal communications challenging. Let’s discuss how you can overcome them.

September 15, 2023
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In 2023, around 16% of companies around the globe have gone fully remote. What’s perhaps more striking, though, is that 62% of professionals admit to occasionally working remotely. 

While there are all kinds of benefits to remote work – higher flexibility, better work-life balance, and a reduction in expenses – this type of working arrangement has its cons, too. The main one? Communication struggles.

If you manage a remote team, you’ll probably be all too familiar with how challenging it can be to interact with a pool of employees scattered around the globe. Different time zones, different schedules, and sometimes also different languages can all contribute to making both external and internal communications tricky.

But why is it so hard to keep good remote communication? And how can you overcome these challenges, so both your business and your remote staff can thrive? That’s what we’re going to discuss in this article.

1.   No Proper Communication Plan in Place

Just as solid onboarding plans are one of the pillars of good HR processes, great communication plans are the pillar of effective communication with your remote team.

When the former is missing, the latter simply can’t exist. Before you begin to consider how to improve your remote communication, you’ll want to establish a clear, accurate, and realistic communication plan.

This should include anything from daily interactions to crisis meetings, from internal news to client-related updates, and it should be shared with your entire team.

 

Only once you have set up a communication plan for your office-based employees can you start building a more specific one for your remote ones. If you don’t have a plan at all, your chances of success will decrease.

How to Overcome It

  • Create a hierarchy of communication types. This means your remote employees will know how to behave in specific situations.
  • Establish the frequency of different types of interactions – daily or weekly check-ins with your team, quarterly reviews, and client meetings – and stick with it.
  • Encourage everyone to follow the guidelines of your communication plan by sharing it on your internal channels, and notifying everyone of any changes or updates.

2.   Different Time Zones

Being able to work with a pool of global talent has opened up lots of great opportunities for companies around the world.

Think about, for example, the possibility of serving your clients virtually 24/7, as well as boosting your company’s local presence in industry hotspots around the world. As well as a region-specific .ae domain, you can now have one or two people on the ground in Dubai to talk to potential clients and put down roots in the area.

At the same time, though, having to manage a team scattered across different time zones is no easy feat. Communication is, of course, one of the main challenges.

Say you’re based on the East Coast of the US but need to urgently communicate with a team member who is located in the United Kingdom. By the time you have reached out to them, they’ve likely already logged off for the day. This can generate delays, frustrate teams and clients, and potentially lose business.

 

How to Overcome It

  • Implement the right technology to support communication among team members and clients from different time zones, such as collaboration platforms and artificial intelligence for call centers.
  • Find ways to work more efficiently across time zones to avoid any delays in the first place.
  • Assign “stand-ins” for employees working on critical or time-sensitive projects. They should be located close to the key client’s timezone to take over quickly if something urgent needs to be done.

3.   A Lack of Tech Tools to Enable Communication

This challenge is one of the most significant ones. Luckily, it’s also one that can be solved fairly easily. If your remote team struggles to communicate, it might just be a case of empowering them with the right tech tools.

Depending on your specific business, your employees might only need basic collaboration and communication tools, or more specific ones that allow them to perform their duties easily and efficiently.

 

How to Overcome It

  • Conduct an internal review of your tech landscape: What digital platforms are you already using? What’s working? What could be improved? Are you using the best auto dialer software available? And how about your current email client?
  • Ask your remote team directly. What would they need to feel more motivated, engaged, and productive?
  • Consider setting up a few trials with several tools, before deciding on the ones that suit you and your team best.

 

4.   Poor Employee Engagement

You’ve implemented all the right digital tools. You’ve set up Windows Remote. You’ve established a clear communication plan. Yet, your remote team is still struggling with engaging with each other and using those resources efficiently.

Poor engagement is another huge challenge of remote communication, and the hard part is that it can happen even in the most organized and seemingly efficient environment. Does this sound familiar? If so, you’ll need to tap into your remote employees’ emotions.

How to Overcome It

  • Organize informal, online get-togethers regularly, whether weekly or monthly. Yes, those Friday drinks can still happen – albeit virtually!
  • Add gamification elements to your remote communication plan. For example, launch monthly raffles, challenge your team with quizzes and games, and offer rewards for outstanding performance.
  • Set up a structure such as daily “check-ins” in a team chat to establish a baseline level of engagement. Regular 1:1s between managers and their direct reports offer a weekly or fortnightly chance to engage with everyone on the team on a human level. This can help with the feeling of disconnection remote work can sometimes create.

5.   Unsuitable Leadership

As unpleasant as it may sound, sometimes the reason why you’re struggling to improve your remote communication lies in leadership issues. Whether you’re in charge of a remote team or manage someone who is, you need to consider that the person assigned to this role might not be suited for it.

A modern leader should be able to foster a positive, encouraging, and empowering environment that helps their team interact in a smooth, easy, and productive way. Of course, a remote team presents fresh challenges compared to an office-based one, but a suitable leader should be capable of successfully handling both scenarios.

How to Overcome It

  • Consider conducting an internal review of your leadership methods. Don’t be afraid to ask your remote team for honest feedback, as this can become your key to better and more successful management.
  • If you have identified any specific issues with the leadership style, try to work out whether these can be fixed. Can you, for example, improve how you use the digital collaboration tools that you implemented? Can you allocate more resources like contract software for your legal team or an auto dialer for insurance agents? After all, as a manager, you should lead by example. If you’re never online or seem unwilling to engage with your remote employees, then why should they?
  • If your review has highlighted many potential problems that you believe might take too long to solve, it might be best to appoint a different person to manage your remote team.

6.   Disorganized Information (and Too Much of It)

Using lots of online collaboration and communication tools can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, they enable you to stay in touch with your remote team, foster a sense of belonging, keep an eye on productivity levels, and notify everyone of any updates. On the other hand, they can end up being a never-ending source of disorganized, overwhelming information.

The outcome? Delays in project work and frustrated employees who can’t communicate properly.

How to Overcome It

  • Send out weekly updates in an easy-to-digest format. No need to list every tiny thing that happened. Try to narrow it down to three or five pieces of news, maximum.
  • Don’t be tempted to implement every collaboration or communication tool under the sun: it will only increase complexity. Instead, focus on having one or two well-built and comprehensive platforms where your employees can find what they need by simply typing a keyword or accessing specific sections.

The Takeaway

One of the biggest hurdles of managing a remote team is, no doubt, being able to maintain solid communication. As we have seen in this article, though, all the challenges that arise from remote communication can, indeed, be overcome.

By following our tips and putting in place a clear communication plan, you’ll soon witness higher employee engagement, enhanced productivity, and more effective remote communication. After that, you’ll be fully ready to reap all the amazing benefits that come with having a pool of global talent!

Browse our Free Employee Recognition Guide

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at support@joinassembly.com.

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

Could find the answer you are looking for?

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