How to Communicate in a Remote Team

Written by on Sep 12 2016

One of the peculiar things about LessEverything as a company is we’ve always been 100% remote. Sure, people would occasionally meet face to face and spend some time together. But there’s never been a LessEverything office. No open space. No stand up meetings where people sit in a circle.

Being entirely remote seriously shuffles the cards of your company culture. It forces you to confront a lot of problems others don’t have. In return, it lets you foster a way to communicate that centers around openness, mindfulness, and directness. Provided you’re ready to work towards those goals, that is.

Let me start with a piece of remote work advice you won’t hear too often: prefer video and voice to text-based chat. Most text conversations are sluggish as hell and don’t need to be recorded verbatim. It amuses me when I see people have ten minute conversations in text that could have taken thirty seconds over video & voice.

Humans are wired up to look beyond words during conversations. A person’s expression can reveal confusion or frustration. With text, these kinds of feelings need to be divined, not noticed, at the cost of additional time and energy. Next time you’re chatting with someone over text and there’s a misunderstanding, do yourselves a solid and call each other.

On the other hand, you’ll need a record of the decisions you reached and why you reached them. With remote work, especially over large time-zone gaps, people aren’t at your disposal when you need them. Take extensive notes. Share those notes with the team whenever it makes sense to.

As you start to rely on video & voice, you’ll experience a lot of this goodness. You can infer a lot of non-verbal communication through a video feed, but there are limits you must get to grips with. If you tend to let others guess what’s on your mind rather than telling them yourself, that’s something you need to change. If something’s bringing you down, or making you nervous, if you’re tired or disappointed, astute people will tell — even over Skype. What they might not get though, is the intensity of your feelings. So tell them, even if your state seems too obvious to mention.

It goes both ways. If you feel there’s something wrong with the person on the other end, ask them about it. If the question makes them uncomfortable, they’ll tell you; but asking the question might be all they need to open up.

Opening up, by the way, is what remote communication is all about. Video & voice is about forcing you to open up to your coworkers when you might be more comfortable hiding behind a keyboard. Recording the results of your conversations means what you discussed is open to everyone in your company. Speaking your mind takes the kind of openness that makes a company worth working for.

If you’re smart about it, remote work will bring a kind of openness to your team that’s hard to match when working from the same office.


Hi I'm Eugen,

I wrote the article you're reading... I spend my days in the eclectic city of Bucharest, Romania. I enjoy talking things through, and solving hard problems with a gentle touch. I love films, friendships, and tennis and I have an insatiable sweet tooth.

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