People & Culture
6 minute read

Say more with silence. How the best remote teams reshape communication

Woman writing at her desk

Your employees have a lot to do. And yet the average office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes – and takes 25 minutes to get back into flow. [1]

On top of this, COVID-19 has meant that most are getting to grips with working remotely. Many are juggling parenting without childcare. Some are dealing with trauma. Now is the time to show your people that you respect them – and their time.


1. Go asynchronous.

For starters, instead of defaulting to scheduling Zoom meetings that both drain people and add unnecessary time pressure, use asynchronous communication methods[2]. Self-record a short video or leave a voice note that your co-workers can review when they have time.

At Learn Amp, we use our own platform to do this – either for learning purposes or to communicate updates – it also helps us keep all our in-house knowledge in one place.

Be thoughtful with your communication. Only send an email or instant message if you need to and make it clear when you need a response by.

Now is also a great time to define and communicate your expectations around remote work[3]. Do you require your team to be available at specific hours? What is an acceptable response time for an email? How about Slack messages?

If your team know you don’t expect them to get back to you straight away, they can turn off their notifications and really focus on what’s important – getting the job done.


2. Flip your meetings.

“Flipped learning[4]” is fast becoming the norm in corporate L&D. In flipped learning, materials are shared ahead of the in-person session, so people can arrive aligned and prepared. The in-person time should then serve as a place to agree commitments and solve problems.

There’s no doubt that even remote teams need meetings. But to get the most out of them — and avoid long, draining Zoom calls — try a flipped approach. By the time of the meeting, you’re aiming for only a few or no questions. A decision can be made.

Flipped meetings have other advantages too. Without the ability to read non-verbal cues on video calls, it can be hard to know when to jump into a conversation – and you may find that some don’t talk at all.

With the flipped approach, at least 50% of the meeting should take place before the meeting. This means everyone has had the opportunity to contribute. No one will dominate the conversation.

At Learn Amp we design materials for flipped meetings using visual collaboration platforms like Padlet or  Mural.  These are great for collating thoughts from large groups and to illustrate your ideas quickly. We then upload these to our platform to make sure everyone can benefit from the knowledge.

As well as making the conversation more inclusive[5], flipped meetings also encourage more independent thought. Each person has considered the topic and input before the conversation. As a result, you get more creative thinking and avoid the dreaded “group think”.

If you’d like to find out more about how to communicate and collaborate remotely, watch the recording of our workshop: How to facilitate powerful online collaboration.


3. Stop talking.

When you need to organise a remote meeting to make a complex decision, you might want to try “silent meetings. [6]” First developed at Amazon, silent meetings were designed with the aim of “making meetings suck less[7]

The concept is simple. You read an online document together (using Google Docs, for instance) and encourage participants to write their comments, suggestions and questions either before the meeting — flipped style — or in real-time.

Everyone can view each other’s comments and the facilitator identifies areas of controversy or questions that require a verbal conversation. They then lead this discussion, using the comments as a jumping off point.

We love this approach at Learn Amp because it ensures that the meeting ends on time. Win!

It’s worth noting that silent meetings may not work if the meeting has a social element or is likely to be emotional. However, for most other topics, silent meetings have advantages.

Similar to a flipped model, they’re more inclusive. Introverted employees and non-native speakers tend to feel more comfortable adding a comment to a document than they would sharing their thoughts over a video call. Everyone’s voice is “heard”.

Most importantly, because all comments are synthesised and organised by the facilitator before opening up to discussion, silent meetings are more easily kept on track. Say goodbye to unprepared, unfocussed, unproductive Zoom calls!

Remote working is here to stay. Half of the UK’s newly remote workers expect to continue working from home as the COVID-19 lockdown lifts[8] and many companies are taking the leap into fully remote for the foreseeable the future — getting your communication right is essential.

Are you interested in finding out more about how Learn Amp can help your remote team communicate better? Watch the recording of our workshop: How to facilitate powerful online collaboration.

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