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Five ways to improve communication in virtual teams

Five ways to improve communication in virtual teams



1.- Match the technology to the task.

The purpose of the communication should determine the delivery mechanism:

  • For routine information and plans, sharing ideas, and collecting simple data → use email, chat, and bulletin boards.
  • For negotiations and problem-solving tasks → use web conferencing and videoconferencing.
  • For potentially contentious interpersonal issues (i.e. a mistake) → use richer media and avoid email or chat.

2.- Make intention clear.

  • Review important messages before sending them
  • Emphasize important information by highlighting parts of the message
  • Use “response requested” in the subject line
  • Separate requests into multiple emails to increase the salience of each one

3.- Stay in sync.

  • Maintain regular communication with team members
  • Proactively share information about your local situation, including unexpected emergencies, time demands, and priorities
  • Acknowledge receipt of important messages
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt and seek clarification to better understand others’ behaviors

4.- Be responsive and supportive.

  • Encourage everyone to respond promptly to requests from their teammates
  • Take the time to provide substantive feedback
  • Proactively suggest solutions to problems the team is facing
  • Maintain a positive and supportive tone in communications

5.- Be open and inclusive.

  • Involve the whole team in important communications and decisions
  • Actively solicit perspectives and viewpoints from all team members
  • Seek to integrate the best of the team’s ideas


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