• Natalia Lombardo

Better meetings & digital communication for remote teams

If you suddenly find yourself working from home, these tips will help you make the most of the opportunity.



Clear communication is the key


In the digital space we miss body language, facial expressions and tone of voice that in face-to-face interactions communicate a big percentage of our message. So when we only communicate by text, we need to be more direct and extra clear to avoid misinterpretations. If you are in doubt, ask yourself: is there anything in this message that can be misunderstood?


Be aware of over-messaging and notification overload


Use the right tool for the right communication and manage your notification settings, including your ‘do not disturb’ hours. Encourage and teach others how to best use the tools and manage their notifications too.


Make sure you don’t need to message lots of times a day. Think in advance about what is the most important info others need to know? What questions should you be asking to have the info you need for a task?


Asynchronous work


It can be challenging to get used to working asynchronously. The GitLab team gives this useful tip: To get into the right mindset ask yourself: ‘How would I deliver this message/present this work/move this project forward right now, if no one in my team was awake?’


Good documentation is the basis for asynchronous work. Make sure you have easy access to documentation and transparency, and a clear understanding of what tools you use for what kind of communication.


Participation


Digital spaces give more space for the quiet voices to express themselves, but it is a habit that needs to be built. Pay attention to who and how people in your team interact online, and encourage the quiet voices to comment and participate in discussions to bring them in.



Considerations for online meetings


Before the meeting (minimum one week before)

  • Find a time to meet, use Doodle or any other tool that allows you to visualise the options and have attendees mark their preference.

  • Agree who will be the facilitator of the meeting, that person can also take on the preparation tasks.

  • Build agenda points asynchronously in advance. Share any info or documents needed for people to read and be prepared a few days before the meeting.

  • Send an invite with info, agenda points, and any video call platform links. And a reminder the day before.

  • Make sure everyone has access to all the tools and they know how to use them.


During the meeting

  • Make sure you have good headphones + mic.

  • If possible you may be able to record the call for people that can’t attend.

  • Ask people to mute their microphone while not speaking to avoid noise.

  • Teach and use hand signals for easy signalling during the call:

  • Hand up for ‘I want to speak’.

  • 1 finger up for ‘I have a point to add to that’.

  • Make a C with your hand to ask for a clarification on what’s been said.

  • ‘Sparkly fingers’/’jazz hands’ to show that you support or agree to what the person is saying

  • Decision making hand signs:

  • thumbs up for yes, I agree

  • thumb in the middle for I abstain

  • thumbs down for no, I disagree

  • flat hand up or crossed fists for block/strong objection.

  • Note taking: make sure you or an appointed person captures the main points and actions. Some groups like to have a live collaborative cloud document (Google doc, HackMD, etc) where several people can be taking notes at the same time.

  • Some video call platforms allow for break out rooms that can be very useful to split big groups for more in depth conversations in specific topics.

After the meeting

  • Share notes, recording and action points with everyone, or on the right place for people to find it.

  • If you use Loomio or any other asynchronous decision making tool you can also sign off the minutes.