When you need an employee, they’re often down the hall, around the corner, through the conference room, and to the left, neatly tucked into their office or cubicle. When all of your employees are centralized into one physical location, communication is very easy.

However, sometimes your employees aren’t right down the hall. The Internet and many apps and tools have enabled companies to hire remote employees or to operate with remote teams. While there are many benefits to this model of work, communication isn’t always as simple as wandering over to an employee’s desk to ask a question. And calling impromptu meetings is almost impossible.

Successful Communication with your Virtual Staff

Managing your virtual staff takes a lot of time and effort. Gathering all of your virtual employees for meetings, project planning, and work discussions can become difficult when you have to reach out to a number of people scattered across different regions and time zones. Whether you’re having trouble with communication among your virtual staff or not, these tips can help your team achieve successful communication.

Creating “Office Hours”

Sure, your virtual employees probably function best on their own time. But this isn’t always productive for communication. Establish set office hours for all of your employees will promote better communication. Have your employees designate specific times during which they will be available for communication, whether it’s by phone or through various electronic messaging systems. This practice also makes managing your virtual employees easier, as you know when they should be working and available to collaborate with team members.

Choose Specific Communication Tools

This one is pretty obvious. However, choosing the right tools enables you to set up very distinct services that all your virtual employees will need to use. This allows you, as an employer or manager, to keep up with everyone on one or a few messaging services. Don’t overdo it, though. Stick to one main system with a couple of auxiliary communication tools. You don’t want to overburden yourself or your staff with tons of apps and software downloads. Keep it simple.

Regular Meetings

Sure, meetings seem more practical when there are things to actually discuss, like project planning. When you’re dealing with a virtual staff, each member may be working on different projects. Aside from that, they may be working at different times and/or on different projects. Setting a time where the virtual staff can gather to touch base is helpful for everyone to understand the big picture. Holding regular meetings with everyone will improve communication and get everyone on the same page. It would be wise to set this meeting at the beginning of every week, maybe on Monday mornings. That way, everyone can plan out the workload for the entire week. This enables you to better manage and understand what each employee should and will be working on.

Check-Ins

Yes, the regular meetings do function as check-ins, if used properly. However, taking check-ins a bit farther can increase efficiency while lending a hand to your team’s communication. When group members are working on projects together, or specific aspects of a larger project, then these members should be in communication with one another. For virtual employees, it’s easy to get sucked into one’s personal work and not communicate what is happening, but this isn’t productive on a larger scope. Promote check-ins amongst the virtual staff to help extend that push to have everyone on the same page. Check-ins can be simple phone calls, or even emails just informing everyone about what they are working on. Hold one-on-one check-ins with your staff regularly, too, so you can hear any questions or concerns they have.

Encourage the Staff to Get to Know Each Other

When working remotely, it’s difficult to create a unified company culture. Encourage your virtual staff to get to know one another, even if it’s at a small level. People who can relate to each other work better with each other as well. Get creative when encouraging bonding time. For example, you can get a game of charades going with your staff over a Google Hangout that everyone is sitting on together.

Most Importantly…

Perhaps the most important thing that anyone in charge of a virtual staff can do is to be friendly and to promote more communication. Reiterate to your team that they’re all working toward a common goal. Make your employees aware that even though they work from a distance, they can still feel close to one another by the many ways they can communicate.

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