In today’s environment, office spaces are becoming more flexible as we move towards the concept of a distributed team. Hiring employees from different locations provides us with distinct advantages such as access to a larger set of skills that may not immediately be available, or the cost benefit of outsourcing talent from another country.
With a remote, distributed team, instant messaging is a simple and effective way of connecting groups of people across different locations. Most of us would consider instant messaging (or ‘chat’) as a pretty intuitive, straight-forward method of communication. With a remote workforce, however, a relaxed attitude on chat could be your undoing.
Here are 5 things you can do to help facilitate effective ‘chat’ environments for both remote and office workers.
Encourage questions and sharing
Group chats are a great way to coordinate work in a distributed team, almost like the equivalent to being in room all together. There’s greater transparency to see what everyone is working on, what they might be struggling with and it provides a space to share new discoveries that could benefit the team. Similarly when creating an environment that helps adopt new technology, trust is a huge factor in leveraging the benefits of group chat and remote workers, so all questions, contributions and knowledge sharing should be encouraged!
Assume the best, not the worst
Although there are many benefits to chat, the one major downside is the difficulty of interpreting text without the physical cues of regular communication. As humans, we perceive much more than simply text when communicating; there’s tone, gestures, and various other verbal and body language cues. That’s why it’s important that the whole team is clear that when communicating via text, not to assume the worst. If in doubt, it’s always best to try clear the air up to avoid misinterpretations.
Soften things with context
A simple, direct question that states exactly what we need may seem pretty harmless at the time. But sometimes without context it can cause feathers to get ruffled. For example, “Where is the monthly sales report?” may sound demanding, out of the blue, or even accusatory, rather, “I just realised I might have to compile things a bit earlier than normal, do you mind helping me out by running the monthly sales report?”, softens the direct question by giving it some context.
Don’t leave questions hanging
Group chats can be intimidating, especially in a large company or if you are a remote worker, away from the office. Silence can be particularly painful, as it can bring around feelings of doubt about your question or what people are thinking of you. One way to quickly extinguish feelings like these is to be responsive to questions, even if you only manage to answer it partially. And if you have completely no idea, referencing someone else who might, may be the next best thing!
Make public chat a priority
Knowledge is key and with distributed team members, keeping information out of public chat groups may hinder the growth of your team. Isolated meetings, video calls or direct instant messages are ways where some of the team may be cut out. Not to say that these can’t or shouldn’t happen, but you should carefully consider when to use them. Recording video or audio, or taking minutes and posting it on a public channel after meeting could be a great way of ensuring that everyone is on the same page. And you never know, someone could benefit from it!
This is just a starting point! There are many other ways that would be considered ‘best practice’ but the important thing is to get you thinking about how to optimise your chat environment for both remote and office workers to get the best results out of instant messaging.
Interested in instant messaging and don’t know what’s best for your business? Enee can help! Contact us today!