Communication coaches and remote work gurus will tell you, creating an effective remote team dynamic is as easy as ABC—Always Be Communicating. Yea, but…which communication methods should be used when?

It is important that every communication method utilized is well suited for its intended use. Continue to assess whether the communication tools you have at your disposal are actually useful and enable high-quality collaboration at all times.

A simple way to assess is ask the team for feedback. Allow five minutes during weekly team meetings to discuss communication methods. What is working well? What is not working well? What do we want to keep? What might we want to change? This team feedback will ensure communication is evolving to become highly efficient and effective over time.

Overall, I recommend using video for calls and meetings as much as possible. Looking each other in the eye helps bolster a sense of connection.

Below is some suggested guidance:

Email: Best used for non-urgent messages that do not need immediate attention. If you must use email for urgent matters, use action oriented subject matter lines, to provide clear expectations. For example, Please review and provide feedback by Friday, 5:00 PM MT: Team Communication memo. Absent an urgent request, email responses should be provided within 24-48 hours.

Phone: Best for lengthier discussions, to share sensitive information, or discuss complex matters. If you are using a personal phone number to make business calls, dial *67 to hide your personal phone number. You might want to inform individuals receiving your calls that caller ID will identify your calls as “Private” or  “Anonymous”.

Text: Best for quick questions and updates.

Instant Messaging (e.g., MSTeams, Slack, etc.): Useful for quick updates and messages that require a quick reply. This tool is more conversational. It is great for socializing and informal conversations throughout the workday.

Video Conferencing Software (e.g., Zoom, MSTeams Video, Skype, GoToMeeting, WebEx, etc.): Great for team huddles, daily check-ins, group meetings, trainings, mediations, visitor consultations, lengthier discussions, to share sensitive information or discuss more complex matters.

MSTeams: Use status to let team members know if you are available, busy, away, etc. during normal business hours. There is also a do not disturb function and option for creating your own status update. As long as your team is diligent in updating their statuses, this eliminates the need for team members to ask if you are available.

MSTeams Team Chat Channels: Valuable for information and chats that apply to the entire team. Customizing channels can help compartmentalize conversations by subject matter and organize documents when sharing and collaborating on projects.

Team Collaborations (e.g., MSTeams, Office 365, GSuite): Allows peers in different locations to collaborate. Your work is stored in the cloud and you can access it from anywhere with an internet connection.

Note: University of Colorado Boulder Office of Information Technology supports the following: Campus Phone, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Office 365 and GSuite.

By: Elizabeth Hill, Associate Director, University of Colorado Ombuds Office