There are many companies that have some portion of the team or work that involves remote communication. In fact, 83% of American employees already spend a portion of their work hours working from home. Project management technology evaluation company, Software Advice, performed a survey with 247 working adults who regularly work with remote team members, to find out more about how they deal with communication in a remote setting. This includes an even distribution of adults across the age range of 25-54 years old. Results of the survey revealed the following preferences in communicating remotely:
- Communication is the main problem observed in virtual teams. Of the 247 working adults surveyed, 38% indicated that communication is their top concern when required to work with a virtual team. This ties in closely with the next two concerns, mainly technology to facilitate communication, as well as productivity that could be indirectly affected by the lack of communication.
- The most popular choice of communication is email. 77% of all respondents selected email and phone calls as their top communication choices, with email winning the race with 41%. It is, however, interesting to note that email is also raising significant problems in communications. 23% of users cited long email threads as a top communication challenge, acknowledging that it is not effective in many cases. At times like these, discussion forums or short chats may help ease the load on emails and prevent a huge log of emails from discussions. It is thus essential to choose the optimal communication platform or tool for each specific communication purpose, maximizing the effectiveness of communication with what each tool can offer. Ideally, having one single online collaboration platform that allows multifaceted approaches for team communication (e.g. chats, task management, calls) would help maximize the effectiveness of collaborating with remote teams.
- Preferred communication mode changes with age group. It is interesting to note that the preference for the type of communication tool utilized varies across age groups. Most notably, younger working adults from 25-34 years of age preferred email and virtual conferencing while older working adults from 45-54 years old preferred using the phone for direct conversations. This could reflect a trend of changing technologies over the years, with the older employees more familiar with the phone, while the younger Y-generation employees grew up with and are most comfortable with email and virtual conferencing. Taking this knowledge into account, it is good for a team leader managing a team of members of different age groups to consider the possible different communication preferences, and to cater to each person’s needs and desires whenever possible.
- Task management is the biggest communication challenge. Most responders indicated that task management was a main communication challenge while working on virtual projects, saying it was difficult to discuss tasks. Tools that effectively communicate regularly are needed to help teams gain better project visibility of the workload and efficiently discuss processes and progress. Chats that can be “tagged” to virtual projects and tasks can also facilitate more effective and clear communication amongst team members.