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Is a communication strategy necessary for remote working?

17 June: For a virtual team to run effectively everyone has to know when to communicate and what tools they should be using. Oliver Deacon argues that not only is a communication strategy vital, but that it is crucial that managers lead by example.

Effective communication is critical for success when team members are not able to meet face to face. Yet it is much more challenging to achieve. For one thing, there is a huge number of tools available for remote communications. Some are very familiar while others will be completely new to the vast majority of the workforce. The importance of providing clear guidance on how and when a team should communicate cannot be underestimated.

A communication strategy ensures that everyone aligns with how core communications should be sent and received. Everyone knows what tools they should use in a given circumstance and, most importantly, when messages are to be shared.

Without a communication strategy, team members are likely to fall back on the tools they are most comfortable with. This could result in unproductive email chains; important messages not reaching everyone or even a manager missing body language cues that a staff member needs additional support.

When a team starts to work remotely its leaders need to examine all of the communication options that the organisation uses, evaluate which channels and tools are most effective for their team and then outline what should be used for different types of communication.

Microsoft Office tools used in example remote communication strategy“Leaders must properly consider the strategy to make sure it will work for their team and take feedback to ensure key scenarios are covered,” advises Oliver Deacon, a leadership coach running ICAEW’s Leading Remote Finance Teams online training course.

“Management needs to lead by example. It is important for them to be disciplined in their communications and not go outside of agreed ways of giving messages,” continues Deacon. “If the strategy says that important information is shared in a weekly video call, then that’s when it must always be shared. It can’t go out in an email.”

The example communication strategy below uses Microsoft Office tools and maps out which channels should be used in different circumstances; from the information that everyone needs to see, down to less important information passed between two team members.

Click on the boxes to find out more about the channels and why each tool has been chosen.

Microsoft Office tools have been used in this example, as many ICAEW members already use these tools. However, there are many other software options available, including Gsuite. Best-in-class options, for individual tools include Evernote, Zoom and Slack.

Learn more:

If you’ve found this article useful and want to know more about how to create effective communication strategies and make the most of communication tools, you might be interested in ICAEW’s Leading Remote Finance Teams training. The course is provided with for those working in practice (next starting on 20 June) and business (next starting on 13 July). Find out more.