The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

Complex tasks are difficult to explain through written emails, Slack, or JIRA. Luckily, in traditional office settings, gathering your colleagues for a meeting can be relatively easy. However, as the number of people working remotely continues to climb, face-to-face communication is becoming more challenging and more important than ever.

Face-to-face communication helps teams effectively communicate simple and complex information, read non-verbal cues, and improve human relationships. Ideally, your face-to-face communication happens in person, but even with remote teams, there are some steps you can take to improve team communication.

Turn your camera on

With video, you can see your colleague’s body language and whether or not you have their attention, and with audio, you can get a better sense of stress and sarcasm. Also, using video will keep you more accountable to staying focused on the conversation at hand, as well.

Decide on synchronous versus asynchronous communication

Synchronous communication is when communication is happening at the same time, or in-sync, while asynchronous communication happens when responses are delayed.

There are good reasons to use both synchronous and asynchronous communication, however, it’s important your team has a common understanding of which mediums you’ll use for each. For example, email could be your asynchronous medium, where you aren’t expected to respond right away or in a timely fashion. On the flip side, Slack could be your synchronous communication platform, where it is expected that everyone on the team responds as soon as they get a message.

By establishing team guidelines on synchronous versus asynchronous communication, your team will be able to improve your workflow.

Don’t go partially remote

There’s a popular rule for distributed teams, “if one person is remote, everyone is remote.” The idea here is setting an even playing field for everyone on the team. Having some remote and some collocated team members can be challenging for a few reasons.

If only one team member is remote and everyone else is collocated, the remote employee can quickly feel like an outcast as they won’t be a part conversation. Also, the collocated team might get wrapped up in the conversation and completely forget to include the remote team members.

Another common problem could be in-person team members having side conversations. These side conversations might or might not be relevant to the meeting. If they’re not relevant, the collocated team members are simply not paying attention to the rest of the remote team, and if they are relevant, the remote team members won’t hear them.

It might seem weird to dial into a meeting when your team member sits in the cubicle beside you, but by doing so, you’ll help your distributed team members feel more like part of the team.

By turning on your camera, deciding on synchronous and asynchronous communication standards, and holding fully collocated or distributed meetings, teams can improve their communication and their information relay.

I’d love to continue the conversation with you in the #agile channel on the TechWell Hub.

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