Are communication issues holding your remote team back? You’re not alone. I’ve been there, and many remote teams face these challenges, too. Misunderstandings, missed messages, and unclear instructions often lead to frustration and decreased productivity.

The solution lies in implementing effective communication strategies. We’ll look at common workplace communication problems and uncover 9 practical ways to enhance communication and ensure your team stays productive and connected.

What are common workplace communication problems for remote teams?

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, once shared in his weekly newsletter and X, “It’s remarkable how often the real problem is not what happened, but how it was communicated.”

Remote teams often struggle with more workplace communication problems than in the office environment. Let me share some of the problems from my experience and see if you can resonate with any of them.

  • Misunderstandings due to lack of non-verbal cues

  • Information overload and disorganized communication channels

  • Passive listening and lack of engagement during virtual meetings

  • Technical issues disrupting communication flow

  • Inconsistent communication practices across the team

  • Insufficient feedback and follow-up on tasks

  • Difficulty in building rapport and trust among team members

an image describing common workplace communication problems.

Reasons to address communication problems

Poor communication can have significant negative impacts on a team. Here are a few reasons to address these issues:

  • Employee Engagement: Poor communication leads to disengaged employees who feel out of the loop.

  • Poor Productivity: Misunderstandings and unclear instructions result in wasted time and effort.

  • Increased Errors: Lack of clear communication increases the likelihood of mistakes and rework.

  • Team Cohesion: Communication problems can create rifts and misunderstandings among team members.

  • Customer Satisfaction: Ineffective communication can lead to delays and errors, negatively impacting the customer experience.

These are real problems in the workplace, and each issue mounts on top of another. They are not limited to any environment but amplified in a remote environment where physical alternatives are unavailable.

9 ways to reduce workplace communication problems

Establishing effective internal communication is crucial for creating a positive work environment. When team members communicate effectively, it fosters collaboration, reduces misunderstandings, and promotes a sense of unity.

Here are 9 actionable ways to enhance internal communication for remote teams:

  • Establish clear communication guidelines.

  • Use the right communication tools.

  • Schedule regular check-ins

  • Encourage video calls

  • Create a shared knowledge base

  • Use icebreakers and team-building activities

  • Optimize meeting efficiency

  • Address conflicts early

  • Monitor and adjust strategies

9 ways to reduce communication problems.

Whether you seek to enhance collaboration, boost productivity, or create a more cohesive work environment, these strategies will help you achieve your goals.

Let’s dive in!

1. Establish clear communication guidelines

Establishing clear communication guidelines is an anchor to bring everyone on the same page and aligned with organizational goals. Teams can focus on essential aspects of communication, leading to better collaboration and productivity.

image listing communication guidelines examples

Here are some examples of clear communication guidelines:

  • Use specific and concise terms.

  • Clarify roles and responsibilities within the team.

  • Set expectations for response times to emails and messages.

  • Encourage open and transparent communication channels.

The guidelines should be tailored to your remote team for better communication and never be too difficult to comprehend or follow.

2. Use the right communication tools

Selecting the appropriate communication tools is crucial for improving team communication and directing focus toward essential tasks. In remote work scenarios, having the right tools can lead to enhanced productivity compared to traditional office setups.

image listing the examples of right communication tools

For instance:

  • Utilize project management software for task organization and tracking.

  • Use messaging apps people are already familiar with.

  • Use collaborative software to work synchronously and asynchronously.

Leveraging these tools, teams can streamline communication processes, collaborate more efficiently, and achieve better productivity outcomes regardless of their work environment.

Beware, though. No matter how fancy or efficient it looks, each communication tool has a learning curve, and having too many of them can be counterproductive.

3. Schedule regular check-ins

Scheduling regular check-ins is a proactive approach to addressing communication issues, boosting employee morale, and overcoming physical barriers in remote work setups.

These check-ins aren’t limited to managers or leaders but can be encouraged throughout the company to foster a culture of mentorship and growth.

image of examples of regular check-ins

Examples of regular check-ins include:

  • Daily standup meetings to quickly share the progress and status updates.

  • Bi-weekly one-on-one sessions between team members and their supervisors.

  • Monthly check-ins where employees can provide feedback and discuss goals.

By incorporating regular check-ins into the team culture, teams can stay connected and address issues in a timely manner.

4. Encourage video calls

Encouraging video calls facilitates face-to-face communication in virtual environments, improving collaboration and resolving communication issues effectively.

image of benefits of video calls

Here are three key examples of how video calls can benefit teams:

  • Non-verbal Cues: Video calls allow participants to see non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and body language, enhancing conversation understanding and clarity.

  • Real-Time Collaboration: Teams can collaborate in real-time during video calls, discussing ideas, sharing screens, and making timely decisions.

  • Personal Connection: Video calls help strengthen team members’ personal connections, fostering camaraderie and teamwork.

In my experience, video calls worked very effectively. I know some people do not like to turn on their cameras, but being able to see the person on the other end reduces misunderstandings, solves problems quickly, and strengthens relationships.

5. Create a shared knowledge base

Creating a shared knowledge base is akin to having an open-door policy in the digital realm, ensuring that information is communicated effectively across the team.

image of benefits of having a shared knowledge base

Here are three examples of how a shared knowledge base can benefit teams:

  • Efficient Information Access: Team members can easily access important documents, resources, and updates, reducing time spent searching for information.

  • Consistent Messaging: A shared knowledge base ensures everyone receives consistent and up-to-date information, eliminating confusion and miscommunication.

  • Collaborative Learning: Team members can contribute their knowledge and insights to the shared base, fostering collaborative learning and innovation.

By creating a shared knowledge base, teams can facilitate a culture of knowledge sharing and transparency. This can also reduce redundant conversations at times.

It’s important to incorporate a strategy to keep the knowledge base up-to-date; otherwise, people will start making their own versions.

6. Use icebreakers and team-building activities

I thought these activities wouldn’t be effective in a remote workplace, but I was wrong. Icebreakers and team-building activities are crucial for helping team members connect and improving collaboration, especially for new team members.

image of individuals becoming a team

Here are examples of how icebreakers and team-building activities can benefit teams:

  • Improved Collaboration: Team-building activities foster a sense of camaraderie and collaboration, leading to better teamwork and productivity.

  • Boosted Morale: Engaging in fun and interactive activities boosts morale and creates a positive work environment, even in virtual settings.

In my experience, enjoying a fun activity with colleagues builds a strong bond as a team and helps you focus on your colleagues’ strengths rather than weaknesses.

By incorporating icebreakers and team-building activities, teams can overcome communication barriers, strengthen relationships, and work more effectively together, irrespective of timezone challenges.

7. Optimize meeting efficiency

Have you ever been in a meeting with no clear agenda, and people showed up unprepared?

Optimizing meeting efficiency is crucial to combatting issues like passive listening, poor leadership, and lacking communication skills. Many people experience meeting fatigue, which lowers productivity and exacerbates these communication challenges.

image of optimizing meeting efficiency guidelines

Here are key examples of how optimizing meeting efficiency can address these issues:

  • Clear Objectives: Clearly defining meeting objectives and agendas ensures participants remain engaged and focused, reducing passive listening.

  • Effective Facilitation: Skilled facilitation ensures that meetings are well-managed and inclusive and encourages active participation from all team members.

  • Utilization of Technology: Leveraging technology such as collaborative tools and time-tracking software can streamline meetings, making them more productive and less time-consuming.

Teams can improve collaboration and enhance productivity and performance by optimizing meeting efficiency. It only takes a little preparation before inviting people for a meeting.

8. Address conflicts early

Have you ever been in or observed a work messenger thread battle worse than Reddit? It’s too easy to misinterpret someone’s intention and get aggressive in a remote work environment.

Addressing conflicts promptly is critical for addressing workplace concerns and resolving issues promptly.

image of list of benefits by addressing conflicts early.

Here are key examples of why addressing conflicts promptly is critical:

  • Maintaining Team Morale: Resolving conflicts quickly prevents negativity from spreading and helps maintain positive team morale.

  • Preventing Escalation: Timely conflict resolution prevents them from escalating into larger issues that could disrupt team dynamics and productivity.

  • Building Trust: Addressing conflicts promptly builds trust among team members and demonstrates that their concerns are taken seriously, fostering a healthy work environment.

I know it’s fun to watch other people argue and fight, but we want to ensure a more cohesive and productive work environment.

9. Monitor and adjust strategies

There is no one-size-fits-all solution here when it comes to effective communication.

Monitoring and adjusting strategies are necessary for shaping workplace culture. Adjusting strategies at each stage of a company’s growth is also critical, as what works for a startup may not align with a scaling company.

List of benefits by monitoring and adjusting startegies

Here are three key examples of why monitoring and adjusting strategies are crucial:

  • Adapting to Growth: As a company grows, communication needs to evolve. Adjusting strategies ensures that communication remains effective and aligned with the company’s scale.

  • Addressing Feedback: Monitoring strategies allow for feedback collection, which can highlight areas of improvement and guide adjustments to enhance workplace communication.

  • Fostering Innovation: Continuously monitoring and adjusting strategies fosters a culture of innovation, allowing teams to experiment with new communication approaches and improve employee engagement.

By regularly monitoring and adjusting strategies, companies can cultivate a positive workplace culture as they grow.

Key considerations for successfully overcoming the communication barriers

Let’s take a look at key considerations for handling the communication barriers.

Fix the problem based on practicality, not what sounds good in theory: I’ve seen teams and companies implement new communication “strategies” only to add more problems. Unfortunately, they never identified the real problem and only implemented strategies that sound good in theory.

Every organization has unique problems, and to overcome poor communication barriers, your team must understand what is not working and why it is not working.

One problem at a time: Another common mistake I see often is that teams trying to solve all at once. Humans are not machines; adapting to new rules and guidelines takes time and effort.

Find the one problem that can be solved, and start there. Once it is evident that the communication has been improved, move on to the next one.

Commitment to collective effort: Improving communication is a collective effort. While it’s impossible for every member to agree with the upcoming changes, it is important that the majority of the team members acknowledge the need for change.

Taking it to the next level: creating an effective remote communication culture.

Creating a robust communication culture requires time and effort, but it’s achievable.

I recommend building a system that rewards those who contribute to communication improvements. Rewarding team members who demonstrate excellent communication skills and highlighting success stories within the company can significantly contribute to fostering this culture.

This reinforces the positive benefits of practicing good communication and encourages others to follow suit; ensuring tangible rewards for excellent communication can further solidify a culture of effective communication within the organization.

Resistance to change is inevitable, especially from long-standing members with seniority and influence. However, I’ve observed that this resistance tends to fade over time. Those who resist change often miss promotions or encounter conflicts that hinder their career progression.

Wrapping up

My five years of remote work experience have taught me how vulnerable remote teams can be regarding communication, especially for growing teams or organizations where changing strategies are inevitable.

Still, improving internal communication often gets undervalued because teams or organizations believe they have more pressing matters.

“We’ll handle this when we have time.” is what I often heard in many teams and companies I worked for. However, as I shared initially, the real problem is not what happened but how it was communicated.

Taking care of communication strategies is like brushing your teeth. If you forget to brush your teeth one time, you won’t see a cavity the next day, but if you do not brush your teeth long enough, you will see one. If you neglect to address your team’s communication barriers long enough, you will see the outcome of it.

A failed outcome is just a manifestation of bad communication.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to sharing more in my next post!