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11th January 2021

Tips for communicating with your dispersed team: Don’t expect everyone to be constantly available

Something a lot of leaders struggle with is feeling that their team should be free and available all the time, and there should be constant communication going back and forth. But just because you like firing off text messages at eight o’clock in the morning, or you like emailing for updates all the time or you’re on instant messenger or WhatsApp constantly, it doesn’t mean everyone else feels similarly.

You need to make sure of two things:

  1. that your team members have enough downtime. You need to help people who are working remotely to take the same breaks as people who might be in an office. Downtime is important if you are communicating, as it allows you to build relationships, and when you are alone for recharging and refreshing your brain. And
  2. that they also have enough work time. If they are in the middle of a vital piece of work that you have sent them, a message on WhatsApp or an email notification from you can be really distracting. Do you really need to interrupt them? Should you interrupt them or could your message wait while they finish that vital piece of work? Sending a message at the end of the morning before a lunch break, or at the end of the day, can allow for lots more uninterrupted work time.

It’s very easy for dispersed teams to just constantly disturb each other, because in an office you can see if somebody is hard at work, or they’ve taken themselves away somewhere quiet to avoid distractions. You can’t do that remotely, so just work on the assumption they’re doing vital work that you shouldn’t interrupt and encourage use of Do Not Disturb and turning off notifications. Agree on a time when everyone will be available for updates and meetings. If something is urgent, explain why, as understanding the bigger picture and understanding the reasons behind short notice deadlines can make quick requests seem less arbitrary, and any interruption important.

Generally, however, avoid messages and emails until it is a suitable time.

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