Distributed Together

Today’s teams look very different than they did years ago. Leveraging the right communication tools at the right time can make the distance feel small.

Gone are the days of everyone gathering around the oversized conference table or in the lobby for major business announcements. Today, distributed is the default. Even for organisations in the same city, you’ll have flexible working hours, work from home arrangements, desk sharing, and more.

Some team members work better from the quiet of home. Others work a different schedule to accommodate parenting and school schedules. And some may even have unique hobbies that require a different schedule – like sports training or volunteer work.

Now’s a great time to pick up some of the habits of highly productive distributed teams - even if you’re all working within blocks of each other.

You can group your communication into three broad buckets: in-person, remote but synchronous, and completely asynchronous. The most successful teams know when to use each type of communication to make it the most effective:

In-Person Communication

Even with distributed teams, in-person communication is still an essential component of team-building. Many distributed teams choose to do annual or biannual in-person meetings for teams, business units, or the whole company to establish goals and celebrate achievements.

Remote but Synchronous Communication

When you can’t get together, there are still plenty of times that your smaller teams need to talk in real-time – like some brainstorming and problem-solving sessions. Tools like Google Meet and Zoom make it easier to coordinate conversations with your team no matter where they are.

Synchronous communication is also an essential tool for one-on-one check-ins, especially for sensitive conversations.

Asynchronous Communication

Asynchronous communication is a keystone trait of successful distributed teams. Instead of a live conversation happening in real-time, asynchronous communication occurs as the team members’ schedules allow.

Most asynchronous communication happens in written form with tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams or project management tools like Asana, Trello, or Monday. There’s also the growth of asynchronous voice and video tools, like Voxer, Marco Polo, and Breve. These types of tools help build and maintain the human connection, sharing inflection and body language in ways that written communication often misses.

Asynchronous communication is excellent for coordinating projects and task management. But there are some unconventional ways to make use of asynchronous communication to benefit your entire team, like providing updates for the whole company. Whether it’s a quarterly company-wide update or an impromptu company-wide update from your leadership team, asynchronous communication is the easiest way to ensure that your entire team gets the right information at the right time.

Choosing the Right Communication Method

So, how do you decide what type of communication to use when? Here are three key questions to ask when choosing between in-person, synchronous, or asynchronous communication – and the platform.

  1. Does your whole team need to be informed? The larger the group that needs the information, the more important things like tone will be to minimize miscommunication.
  2. How sensitive is the update? If the update covers sensitive topics, like benefits or staffing changes, choose a communication method that shows empathy.
  3. How urgent is the update? The best way to make sure the information is available to everyone is to give them control of when they receive it.

The answers to these questions help you choose what method and platform to share every update across your company. Plus, using the right communication method helps keep your team working together in harmony.

Whether your team is distributed around the world or just around town, good communication is the keystone of team success. Leveraging the right communication tools at the right time can make the distance feel small.