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The Best Way to Communicate for Remote Work

Clear communication is the key to forming good relationships, and good relationships are the key to success in life and work. 

For leaders of remote teams, the best means of communicating are different than they were in the past. But they involve the same core principles: brevity and focus.

Top teams communicate in short bursts that are followed by long stretches of intense concentration.

The bursts are where ideas germinate. The stretches are where they grow. 

But this isn’t how most teams work today, and that’s the problem. Instead, a constant stream of emails and Slack messages shatters the focus that’s necessary for doing great work.

Part of the issue is an over-reliance on text-based communication.Text-based communication in general stinks at facilitating healthy human relationships. It lacks nonverbal cues and it’s bad at conveying emotion, both of which are vital components of interpersonal communication and relationship-building. 

Constant interruptions may also contribute to poor health. Studies show that robbing people of focus time can increase feelings of uneasiness and anxiety, bring on depression, decrease productivity and diminish creativity.

So the goal is to reduce these interruptions — or keep them limited to a small window of time, and replace them with long stretches of focused time.

Focus enables flow, a state of utter absorption in and involvement with a task. Flow, in turn, can yield vastly better end results and have a positive impact on mental health.

If you’re totally zeroed in on something else—a project, say—you’re not expending energy worrying about stuff that affects you personally. Flow is energy-efficient—a state of active meditation.  

And while video interactions can be less disruptive to flow than text-based ones, that’s only true if sessions are infrequent and to-the-point. 

Back-to-back office meetings are physically and psychologically draining, but nonstop virtual meetings are both of those things and impediments to communication. 

For one, they’re unnatural. Too much information. Too much self-evaluation. Too little movement.

 The formality of most video-based tools, with their calendar links and access codes, is also a problem. Formal is fine for some work discussions that absolutely need to be scheduled, but informal verbal communication is vital for bonding and building a high level of trust among colleagues. 

Greater trust leads to greater acceptance of decisions, more innovation and increased productivity. 

If you lead a remote team, finding ways to foster and facilitate informal, real-time verbal communication is the difference between doing just okay work and doing incredible work.

For most companies, that means re-evaluating both their processes and their tools.

Remote work is the new normal.

If your team can’t communicate effectively, they can’t form truly great relationships—and they’ll never live up to their fullest potential. 

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