12 Proven Communication Strategies for Remote Teams, According to Experts 

The remote work movement was already well underway before the pandemic (more than 26 million Americans worked remotely at least part time in 2019), but in a matter of weeks last year, companies went from open-door policies and open office floor plans to having every single employee holed up in their own separate, makeshift offices-of-one for the foreseeable future. 

The quick team huddles around the conference table, the spontaneous hallway catch-ups, the lunch room banter and everything in between, all of those things that helped carry out your workplace’s communication (and acted as a vehicle for employee engagement) have been totally replaced by one thing: the company laptop and a toss up of between 5-10 online tools and apps. 

remote employee communication

So how do you make communication work for remote teams? 

That’s what this article is all about. 

But with communication being such a key element of how teams work together yet such an expansive and personal topic, we didn’t want to tell you just our perspective. Instead, we sought out the advice of experts, specifically, company leaders who are very familiar with remote team communication challenges, to share their top communication strategies for remote teams they’re finding success with. 

Over 35 company founders, CEOs, COOs, HR execs and senior managers shared so much valuable insight with us, and what was interesting was that their answers boiled down to 12 communication strategies for remote team.

Read on for 12 tried, tested and proven remote team communication tips and hear from the experts themselves on why they're important: 

  1. Define and document processes clearly
  2. Use the right tool(s)
  3. Be available and consistent as a leader
  4. Prioritize empathy and connection
  5. Establish communication norms
  6. Carve out time to share and bond as a team
  7. Over-communicate
  8. Have a channel for non-work communication
  9. Resist the urge to micromanage
  10. Promote asynchronous communication
  11. Get continuous employee feedback
  12. Make space for 1-on-1 communication 

Define and document processes clearly

The most effective communication strategy a company with remote employees can implement is to have a documented process that you can use to guide your team, and objective KPIs to measure their performance by. This ensures that everyone is on the same page because your team understands exactly what is expected of them and how their performance will be measured.
By clearly documenting expectations and eliminating subjectivity in measuring performance, your communication will be more effective, less stressful, and on top of that, your productivity will increase. This also produces a side benefit of increased job satisfaction among employees, which leads to stronger company culture and reduced turnover.
The net outcome is a win for employers, employees, and customers alike. The key here is to document every step of your processes in a way that your entire team clearly understands exactly what they need to do and how they need to do it. From there, you’ll need to define objectively measurable KPIs that align with your end goal because this ensures that your team is doing the work that matters instead of just being busy, and management isn’t basing decisions on emotions or whims. Literally, every aspect of communication hinges on these two powerful factors.

Robert Nickell, Founder and CEO of Rocket Station

Define processes clearly! This is the best way to avoid misunderstanding. An extensive knowledge base full of guides and how-to's helps employees to familiarize themselves with the structures and approaches of the company. Communication Guidelines explain what tone and channel to use for every message they want to share.

Jessica Traupe, Content & SEO Marketing Manager of Zammad


communication tips for remote employees tools

Use the right tool(s)

Remote work has become more common nowadays, but one thing that you can always do to communicate and manage your team well is to have an all-around app that they can visit where you can upload the tasks, schedules, and meetings all at once. It is very collaborative and useful that even if they cannot communicate with you, they can see how the team should function. We use an app called Notion, which streamlines all our tasks and work-related communication. I like that I can see what tasks others are working on. They can tick off their tasks once they're done. We also have Zoom meetings to keep track of what everyone's up to. It definitely keeps everyone motivated when they know that we are working towards the same goal!

Cindy Deuser, HR Manager of Thrive Agency

We have found that utilizing those communication softwares that are available is very important towards making remote work...work. Employees need to be able to communicate effectively amongst each other. We like to use Loom for that. Loom allows us to have those video conversations that provide a bit more intimacy rather than communicating via email. Also, virtual project management is key. Whether it's email or basecamp, we have to stay more organized than normal and have one location for everything project related. As far as tending to the mental health of our employees during this unusual time, we focus on listening immensely, knowing the signs of a mental gas tank on E. When exhaustion is detected, we encourage the person to take a break, do what fills them back up and allow others to take things off their plate if need be. Making sure you make yourself available for these conversations with your employees is essential.

William Schumacher, CEO & Founder of Uprising Food

My biggest tip for managing remote employees is to establish a clear communications channel. We keep a Slack Channel called #updates for everyone to post a general list of what they are working on and what they've accomplished each day. The goal of this channel is not to have employees in competition with each other to see who can complete the most tasks. Instead, it's to keep our team aligned and give them a space to ask for support or feedback on their projects.
We also encourage employees to use this space as a place to let others know they are signing on or signing off for the day. Our employees love it because it allows them to set a clear work/life boundary and lets them get some recognition for their daily accomplishments.

James Major, Founder of Insurance Panda

We use a variety of collaboration tools including Slack and Google Drive, and our most popular among internal and external teams is Miro. Miro is a super-powered online whiteboard that allows teams to create content, upload content, build templates for workflows and strategies, use Miro's built-in templates, host files, embed links and iframes, vote, chat live, and export material. Best of all, each board's owner can set up different security settings to allow no outside access, allow viewing, allow commenting, or allow full collaboration and input. These permissions can be changed at anytime. Short-term team members don't even need a Miro account as they can comment and edit as an anonymous user if needed. We use this feature in a lot of our short-term workshops.

Robert Kienzle, Senior Consultant at Knowmium

First and foremost, remote teams need to make use of virtual workspaces for process visualization. For us, it's our own platform, Taskeo, but you can pick anything that works for your needs. Use Kanban boards, flow charts, mind maps or online white board to visual processes, tasks and projects. This will instantly remove a bunch of doubts and issues that people have when the task or process discussion happens only via chat, video calls or emails.

Agnieszka Kasperek Chief Marketing Officer of Taskeo


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Be available and consistent as a leader

Management teams that waited until they had next steps all figured out suffered while those that responded more quickly with information they had available at the time were better received. Employees want to know that someone is working on the issues even if they don’t have all the answers just yet. We rarely expect people to have all the answers. Also, communicate using different channels. Different people respond differently to various communication channels. If it’s important, use more than one channel, such as an email followed by a video call.

Lee Frederiksen, Managing Partner at Hinge

The key to effective communication among remote teams is consistency and availability. I suggest implementing daily conference calls to discuss ongoing projects, and giving employees the space they need to resolve any issues and ask pertinent questions. This is also a time where team leaders can offer encouragement and support where needed.

Monica Eaton-Cardone, Co-Founder and COO of Chargebacks911

Leaders should create opportunities to establish predictable, frequent, quick check-ins with the whole team and 1:1 with each team member. Instead of only communicating on a need-to-know basis, or ad-hoc, or only checking in when the final deadline is nigh, do this: request multiple instances that allow you to give and get updates and feedback.

Halelly Azulay, CEO of TalentGrow and Creator and Host of The TalentGrow Show

Companies should develop regular “news shows” that provide updates from leadership on key initiatives and challenges, some brief updates from managers on various interesting projects, and some short features on individual employees – perhaps introducing new people or providing an interesting personal and professional profile of one or two others. Back in the 70s, many companies created in-house TV studios and created this kind of news program and broadcast it over satellite networks. Today, the same can be done with remote interviews and with individuals creating their own short video clips.
WHY: It’s difficult for employees to sustain morale and feel connected when the typical office pattern has been disrupted, and when everyone is feeling vulnerable. Employees, especially Gen-Z, are very interested in knowing the values and aims of their leadership, and how the company is doing not only financially but also in terms of social responsibility.

Diane Gayeski, Professor of Strategic Communication at Ithaca College and Principal of Gayeski Analytics

Effective communication while managing and working with a remote team stems from your willingness to listen, learn, and make yourself available at all times. You cannot keep a business afloat from home without an open line of communication with your employees. Utilizing video calls, instant messaging platforms, and email is the best you can do. Hold weekly meetings with your entire team and express your gratitude for their hard work and dedication during this time, and allow space for them to express any grievances or concerns they may have. Make your company a safe space for communication.

Chris Vaughn, CEO and Founder of Saucey


remote team communication best practices

Prioritize empathy and connection

Show empathy. Show care and empathy in your communication. Working remotely is different - and the best way to find out how your employees are feeling and what they need is to ask them. Don't assume how people are feeling or that what works for another company/team will work for everyone.

Beth Collier, Communication and Leadership Consultant at Beth Collier Consulting, London, UK

Write and share user manuals with your team: A user manual is a written guide that helps others (e.g., your colleagues) learn more about you: when you are most productive, what motivates you, why you get irritated, and how to contact you when they urgently need something. Remote teams can’t afford to guess how their colleagues think, feel, and work. User manuals achieve proactive communication by offering insight into each employee’s personal values, working styles, and preferences.

Lauren Maffeo, Associate Principal Analyst at Capterra

When it comes to effective communication in the remote workplace, it is important to me that all employees have a voice within my company, they feel valued and heard, not just task makers but a part of the culture. I have been placing extra focus on internal communication and integrating core values into the company culture that support the team members and place value on their best interest as well as encourage open communication and feedback.
When it comes to scheduling, every team member has a daily 15-minute meeting with their assigned team leader to go over what was accomplished the previous day and what they plan to accomplish today. If we encounter a problem or an employee is stuck on a task, we schedule an additional meeting to provide necessary solutions or appropriate tools. Each team meets once a week for an hour, usually at the beginning of the week, to go over the goals for that week and make sure everyone is on the same page. 
Also, all of our team leaders meet once a week to ensure all teams are on track and collaborating across all levels. Lastly, I host a meeting twice a month strictly for executives. As far as the tools that are most frequently used to communicate and pass information, it depends on each specific team. We provide lots of different options and each team decides what they prefer based on their needs.

Jason Akatiff, Co-founder of Boundery

In all communication, but especially in remote work communication, set the right context for trust and safety. If I trust that you have my best interests at heart, I'm much more likely to be open to receiving your input. I will believe that you have my best interests in mind in the context of a trusting relationship. With the right context, you're headed toward an effective conversation that yields better results.
One of the best ways to create the right context is to ensure that your verbal and nonverbal communication are congruent. For important conversations that carry a lot of emotional information and the potential to land the wrong way, video conference call allow you to also communicate via your nonverbal channels with congruent body language and facial expressions, as well as your voice - your tone, pace, pitch, and projection tell a big part of the emotional undertones of the story and help ensure you can read your conversation counterpart's emotions as well.

Halelly Azulay, CEO of TalentGrow and Creator and Host of The TalentGrow Show

If there’s one piece of advice I would give every leader, particularly with virtual meetings, first and always pay attention to making human connections before business content in every single meeting. Leaders who really listen can gauge morale by asking a few simple questions - in both one on one or team meetings, virtual or live. Here are just three possible questions that can help gauge team and individual morale:
If you were to describe how you are feeling today (about yourself or the team) in weather terms, are you stormy, sunny, foggy, breezy, just right, too cold, too hot?
What is ONE thing that we can do together as a team that would generate increased energy and engagement as we continue working in this pandemic?
What is ONE thing we should change to be to be seen as a model of the strongest, most effective, and innovative team in our company?
And here’s a tip that can add variety and fun to your meeting and getting a handle on levels of agreement: colorful polls. Ask people to bring to the meeting three objects (any kind of objects) in three different colors like red, yellow, and green to hold up when you ask yes/green, no/red, or maybe/yellow questions.

Roxi Bahar Hewertson, Author of the newly-released book Hire Right, Fire Right: A Leader’s Guide to Finding and Keeping Your Best People

Be helpful. Yes, since we are in a remote environment, work is important. But, so is helping each other out during these tough times. So, ask your team members if they are doing fine, or if they need any assistance. People may not open up, so always keep the door open for them to express themselves.

Karthik Subramanian, Senior Content Manager at Picmaker


communication norms remote

Establish communication norms

At the beginning of a call, the organizer outlines the purpose of the call and the desired result. Then, at the end of the call, we confirm that we have achieved the desired result and also reiterate the next steps for each person. It may sound obvious but it works wonders. The reason every company should implement this is, when it comes to numerous video calls, it is shockingly easy for something to slip through the cracks. Any ensuing confusion can lead to low morale and missed deadlines.

Marja Verbon, Founder and COO of jump.work

Already a struggle in the digital world, the line between work and life makes the balance ever more blurred as often “home offices” are in kitchens, sitting rooms and bedrooms. Managers need to set the right example when it comes to not working all hours of the day. Using tools such as schedule send on emails means reaping the benefits of flexible work hours while getting the to-do lists crossed off, while still maintaining a resemblance of the 9 to 5 workday. Just because technology means we CAN be contacted 24 hours does not mean we should.

Heather Delaney the MD and Founder of Gallium Ventures

At Gainful, technology has been the main reason for our continued growth and success in spite of the difficult year of adjusting to a remote workplace environment in the midst of a global pandemic. Our most used tools are Zoom/Google Hangouts for communication and collaboration purposes, Slack for internal chat, and Notion for internal wiki. Aside from that we use Google docs/sheets/slides. Additionally, we try to have small virtual social events to encourage people to feel more connected which leads to improved communication flows.

Eric Wu, Co-Founder & COO of Gainful

At Galactic Fed, we emphasize different learning styles by encouraging clear, written, and frequent communication. We are sure to remain organized by creating specific communication channels for every team, project, and campaign. We even create one for each new member being onboarded and their managers. This is extremely valuable as it saves staff from digging through endless messaging threads and makes finding necessary information painless.

Zach Boyette, Co-Founder of Galactic Fed  

Outside of having the right tools for the job (Zoom, Slack, email, etc.) I think it's important for remote teams to understand when to communicate and the best channels for each purpose. Our team uses different tools for different reasons. Quick questions and follow-ups are done through Slack, but anything more extensive goes through email. Something that needs to be communicated face to face is done through Zoom, as well, so all parties can get that visual feedback.
But we didn't start off intuiting this. There was a lot of trial and error. And our management team had to learn to reach out more to remote employees because it's sometimes easy to isolate when in a remote situation. Remote workers were not seeking out the support they needed and they'd get deep into projects without having crucial information. This obviously created a lot of problems, so we invested in management training to help with this, and now our managers have a better idea of what each remote employee actually needs to do their job.

Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review

Working from home has been an interesting adjustment for all of us this year. We love to have close and personal relationships with our employees, so the transition to remote work has been a challenge. We’ve found that it’s all about balance. We like to set our expectations every week and check in frequently to see if those expectations are being met. However, checking in with employees daily is a must. If they are unable to meet those expectations, we want to know so we can come to a mutual agreement about the workload. We never want to overwork anyone or push anyone past their limits, especially while everyone is having a difficult time getting through the year.

Jing Gao, Founder & CEO of Fly By Jing

Poor communication is what makes businesses less competitive. As working from home becomes the norm, it's important that remote teams have a strategy in place for effective communication. At Felix Homes, we rely on a couple of tools. Slack has been extremely helpful in communicating between various parts of our organization. We have specific channels for marketing, web development, sales, content creation, etc. The great thing about slack is that it allows us to have a history of our conversations so we can go back afterwards to reference what was said. Another useful tool has been Trello. While this falls under the productivity management category, we use the chat feature to ask questions related to specific tasks. Like Slack, this also allows us to have a transcript of the conversation which makes it easy to ensure nothing is missed.

Tyler Forte, CEO of Felix Homes


remote bonding

Carve out time to share and bond as a team

Add video shoutouts to the mix 📹. Most remote teams communicate via email or messenger. This format is helpful for outlining the details of projects or getting feedback, but is less effective for team bonding. I recommending adding videos to your mix of communication methods. For example, you could record a quick announcement to your team, do shoutouts for employees, or similar. Notably, the production value of your video is significantly less important than the content. You can record a quick selfie video on your phone, and make sure that the content is friendly, honest and charismatic. We’ve used this communication strategy for years, and had great results. Adding in video will go a long way to building stronger relationships and increasing job satisfaction with your remote team.

Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding

We have an audio only open mic hour call everyday where people sit with colleagues and talk as much or as little as they like as there is no set agenda but simply the chance to “be with” the rest of the team. It gets rid of a never-ending silence that can come with working alone, especially as currently having the radio on in the background can be a depressing deja vu of COVID headlines. *
Similarly, in the same way we used to be able to grab a drink after work, managers should not forget about organizing virtual informal meetups. We’ve been making our way through different virtual Gallium Games Nights which might consist of card games, multiplayer online games, or even pictionary, as this ensures the conversations are strictly non-work thanks to bringing in people from other companies and industries for a variety of chat.

Heather Delaney, MD and Founder of Gallium Ventures

For our organization we have a 'clear the air' round at the beginning of our meetings, to help improve our relationships and communication as a team. We all have a chance to air any issues we having, and improve the way we continue to do business. It helps our team as they know they can have a way to share any frustration and leads to better team work and communication.

Loren Howard, Founder of Prime Plus Mortgages

With platforms like Slack, Google meet, Microsoft teams, and many others communcating remotely has never been easier. However, I have found the bonding aspect of communication can be lost without the in person connection. Because of this I have focused on creating a social atmosphere at my company. We have weekly Friday night happy hours, group movies, video game parties, and many other things that keep all my employees connected remotely past just the work. Breaking down barriers and creating a comfortable environment is one of the biggest obstacles in communication. Focusing on a communication strategy that highlights our sense of community has been the best use of my time and has increased our productivity drastically.

Craig Smith, CEO & Founder of Trinity


Over-communicate

You might need to over-communicate when connecting digitally, but remember that quality still trumps quantity.* Try to over-communicate is common advice for making online meetings run smoother. And while there is some merit to that, it can cause Zoom-fatigue and lead to poorer reception of what you're trying to say. It's probably a good idea to skills like rephrasing and summarizing, but remember to also use it mindfully so that its effect doesn't get lost.

Michelle Duval, Founder & CEO of Fingerprint for Success

Encourage the team to practice over-communication, that is, assuming that what reads as a clear text to the writer does not necessarily provide all the context to the reader. Give your colleague a chance to ask questions in a Q&A doc, and answer them promptly. Set up brief calls when needed to untangle any misreads quickly.

Irina Papucl, Co-Founder of Galactic Fed  

There is nothing called over-communication. Communicate as often and as frequently as possible. In the last year since we moved our work entirely to a WFH scenario, we ensured that we stay connected with each other as often as possible. It helps remote teams stay together, and bring issues to the table that they wouldn't have discussed openly. There is nothing such as over-communication. Connecting once a week is a little too less unless the role is independent and the teams are pretty much on their own.

Karthik Subramanian, Senior Content Manager at Picmaker


Have a channel for non-work communication

To help facilitate workplace communication, every company with remote employees should provide channels for staff to have non-work related conversations. This may be counter-intuitive, but by creating these channels (special forums, Slack channels, virtual pizza nights, etc.), we have found that people feel more comfortable around each other. That means they are not just co-workers but also friends. As a result, the work communication becomes much smoother.

Ray Blakney, CEO & Co-Founder of LiveLingua.com

While Slack, Zoom, Teams, and Skype are awesome channels for work, I'd recommend using informal channels such as WhatsApp, Google Hangouts to chat. It helps team members get up to speed on topics they may have missed out on due to time zone differences, or delays in communication.

Karthik Subramanian, Senior Content Manager at Picmaker


Resist the urge to micromanage

It is challenging to control remote teams when you can't go up to others to see what they are doing. Many individuals attempt to contact team members numerous times a day to monitor their success. Although using it for urgent activities can be okay, it's not a smart idea. Your staff members, particularly though they operate remotely, are responsible people.
A significant aspect of successful remote work is to encourage members of the team not to bombard them with calls and emails regarding their task. It's important to make the members of your team feel trusted and needed. Using resources to communicate and chart development, but with noisy instruments and so many calls, avoid the urge of staring over their shoulder.

Eliza Nimmich, Co-Founder and COO at Tutor The People


asynchronous communication

Promote asynchronous communication

While we were always a remote team, we've grown over the last year, which has led us to uncover communication problems and address them. The biggest switch we've made is a switch from synchronous/asynchronous to a blended communication approach. Traditional workplace communication is a combination of synchronous communication (meetings) and asynchronous communication (emails, memos, etc). However, these are often not connected to one another. Our iteration has been making connection between these kinds of interactions, allowing people to record video, have web-conferences, share text and chat, all in themed-virtual-spaces that allow them to be easily searched and accessed by anyone from anywhere.

TJ Hoffman, COO of Sibme

Videoconferencing tools like Zoom are now indispensable, but, when overused, they can impede productivity. Video platforms like Panopto enable businesses to easily record meetings, presentations, demos, training classes and events, and securely store the recordings to be watched anytime and anywhere. This helps employees regain control over their schedules and sanity.
For onboarding new hires, asynchronous video is a powerful tool to train employees remotely. Recorded trainings allow employees the flexibility to participate in the training at their convenience and can be shared widely and revisited anytime so employees can refresh their knowledge as needed.
Video recording also offers a way for leaders to share important messages and news with remote audiences. Employees can watch the announcement on their schedule, and analytics help leadership understand who is viewing, and what parts of their message are most impactful.
Recorded meetings and videos that can be viewed on demand are simple and effective tools companies can use to bolster focus and productivity among remote employees. These tools also enable remote onboarding and training, facilitate executive communication and democratize knowledge inside the company.

Sean Gorman, COO of Panopto


Get continuous employee feedback

I believe the most important communication strategy is to encourage employees’ feedback and thus actively shaping the work they engage with. Secondly, when we get their feedback, we act on it immediately. As a result, they feel more valued, as both employees and as human beings.
Communicate often and openly, and keep the feedback two-ways. You can create anonymous polls and ask your employees which elements they consider successful, and which not. Another point is to clarify the communication channels and “protocols” so that people don’t waste time trying to pass the information to different people.
Lastly, company culture can make working from home unbearable or joyful. From encouraging open communication to career development, a sense of teamwork, and flat hierarchy, company culture reflects on the daily work and joy people have (or miss) while working for your company.

Tom Winter, CRO at DevSkiller


Make space for 1-on-1 communication

Along with weekly check ins on zoom or teams etc, I recommend a mentoring system where people are paired up so they have support and feel they always have someone to turn to. This is hugely beneficial.

Joe Wilson, Senior Career Advisor at MintResume

One of the best and most successful communication strategies I provide to leaders is to take 5-10 minutes to randomly call 2-3 remote employees per week and ask how they are doing? I instruct the leader to have this heartfelt conversation when he or she is not in a rush and to show genuine concern for their employee's well-being. To sincerely ask how are they really doing not just with their workload but how are things going in general and to wish their employee and their family well during these challenging times. This would also be a great time for the leader to tell their employee thank you for their service and commitment to their organization. Then the manager can close out the conversation by having the courage to ask what more can he or she do to help the employee be more successful with their current projects and/or assignments? Or if there are any suggestions or concerns, he or she may have?
A leader having the courage to engage their employee in such a conversation, keeps not only the lines of communication open but allows the leader to keep his or her fingers on the pulse of their department and resolve any issues before they become major problems.

Krishna Powell, Founder and CEO of HR 4 Your Small Biz


And there you have it. As comprehensive as these answers are altogether, keep in mind that every company and team set up is unique. Your approach to managing and supporting your remote employees - and therefore how you approach remote team communication - would have to also factor in your company size and industry, your mission and core values, and the unique needs of your employees wherever they are. 


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