Whether it’s temporary or permanent, working with a distributed or remote team has unique communications challenges when compared with working in a brick and mortar office environment. The need for clear communication is even more critical, and it can be easy to default to over-communicating with team members to make sure everyone understands. If your team has many meetings, conference calls, Zoom meetings, or presentations, it limits their opportunities for uninterrupted productivity. 

Optimize Your Remote Team Communication

It’s essential to keep communication clear and concise. Here are a few ways you can optimize your remote team’s communications, so everybody feels connected, but still has plenty of time for getting work done. 

Minimize Internal Email Use

Keep your emails for client communications and occasional company-wide briefs. Your team can spend a lot of time responding to too many emails every day if they’re getting all kinds of internal communications that way. 

Use Internal Chat Programs like Slack or Microsoft Teams

Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams make it simple to organize communication. Having multiple channels means staff members don’t have to perform lengthy searches for discussions relevant to their work. It also means they don’t have to participate in or even read conversations that are not relevant to their work. 

Slack also gives your team opportunities for personal connections. You can have specific interest channels like memes, houseplants, and pet pictures, where staff can relax a bit chat with each other when they need a break. Think of this as the virtual water cooler, which helps your team grow stronger and feel more supported as individuals.

READ MORE: 5 Exciting Tech Tools

That Zoom Call Could Have Been a Slack Message

Remote Team Communication

Zoom fatigue is a real thing; everyone is feeling it.  

Zoom meetings can be helpful, but they’re not always necessary. Having to be on video, especially when working from home, is extra pressure for team members. Having everyone on video can be uncomfortable and awkward, not to mention the almost inevitable audio and video delays—try to have a strict policy and see if you can limit video meetings to interviews. 

Video meetings can tend to drag on, with information and discussions that are not relevant to everyone in the team. To reduce or avoid Zoom fatigue, it’s crucial to keep video meetings as short as possible and stick tight to the agenda. 

Before you book it, define your purpose and the benefits of a Zoom meeting. Clearly lay out what the meeting will accomplish and stick to time limits. Need to do a brainstorming session? What about using a collaborative mind-mapping software and voice chat?

Consider that audio and video delays can be confusing and make it difficult to track information. If you cover critical information in a zoom call, you’ll need to make sure it’s written out to send later. If it’s been written out for the agenda or later in meeting minutes, could you have made that a conference call instead? Or even a slack message? 

If Zoom meetings are a must, limit them to 10% or less of the week, so staff doesn’t start hitting Zoom fatigue. If meetings cause tons of distraction, you may want to set limits on how many happen per week, and when they happen. You could decide on meeting-free times collectively, or maybe one day a week that all meetings are on, or one day a week that has no meetings at all. 

Remote Team Communication

Hold A Daily Scrum

Keeping in touch and keeping up with what all team members are working on can be challenging on a remote team. If your team is up for it, and it works for all time zones, consider starting a daily scrum. 

Traditionally, a scrum is a short stand-up meeting immediately after an event where members of the press can ask leaders or speakers questions at significant events. That iteration of it is based on rugby terminology. It’s a format that easily translates to a team environment. 

In a team scrum, each team member has a minute or two to say what they got done yesterday, what they’re working on today, and what impedes their progress. A scrum can help you keep track of project progress, and it can help your team stay connected and on track with each other. 

Scrums must be fast, that’s the point. Otherwise, they’re just another “meeting that could have been an email.” For voice chats, set a timer if needed. Each person should have no more than two minutes to say as briefly as possible what they’re working on for the day.

You could even do a digital scrum in a Slack channel every morning. 

Remote Team Communication Strategies Are a Must

Many companies have been experiencing challenges and growing pains with an abrupt switch to remote work situations. And it might seem like a huge pain in the butt right now, but don’t give up. There are tons of companies worldwide who have managed to nail down productive and profitable remote team communication, including having team members in dramatically different time zones. 

Remote Team Communication

Your company can figure it out, and you’ll be that much stronger for it, since your operations will become flexible and dynamic. As a bonus, in the future you can continue to adapt to any situation and keep your team functioning smoothly.

Have you implemented a communications strategy for remote workers yet? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below.

COVID-19 descended upon 2020 in a way no one expected. What was once a problem in other countries quickly became a worldwide problem in a matter of weeks. Businesses were shuttered, schools were closed and it left people everywhere wondering how things could change so rapidly. 

Canada’s unemployment rate hit 13% in April, with 2 million additional jobs being lost (on top of the 1 million lost in March).

With so many businesses forced to rely on digital communication, chatbots have emerged front and centre as a tool to help companies, agencies and governments with their COVID-19 response.

Using Chatbots To Stop the Spread of Misinformation

The internet is great – until it isn’t. And with so much anxiety and uncertainty, it can be difficult to know what to believe, which sources are credible, and where to get your daily fix of news. 

A variety of organizations and agencies launched different online platforms in order to deal with the influx of public concern and the rapidly growing problem of misinformation. 

Chatbots were one such online platform, used to spread correct information. An added bonus with chatbots, in comparison to online information sources or newspapers: they can understand and respond in natural language. This even improves the quality of access for people who struggle with the internet or have a difficult time reading. 

Chatbots can be available to answer pressing questions at any time of day with reliable, up-to-date information. They also have the ability to speak a variety of languages, making it easier to reach diverse populations worldwide.

The World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a Facebook Messenger chatbot version of its WHO Health Alert platform. By doing so, the WHO offered instant and accurate information about COVID-19– via Facebook’s global reach.  

COVID-19 Response

Available in many languages, the service can be accessed through the WHO’s Facebook page. As such, the WHO has the potential to reach 4.2 billion people – that is more than half of the world’s population getting real-time accurate data about the virus. This chatbot helps people protect themselves and their families, as well as preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The City of Toronto

In May of 2020 the city of Toronto launched an official COVID-19 chatbot in order to help answer the variety of questions they were fielding related to the virus and its various impacts. 

The chatbot uses AI (artificial intelligence) to answer questions with standard answers using content that is already available on its main website. But because of the AI, as the chatbot gets used more and more, it will be able to better communicate, learn from its conversations, and provide better answers and service for residents of Toronto. 

For example, you could ask the chatbot: 

  • Is the outdoor swimming pool by my home open?
  • Where can I get tested for COVID-19?
  • What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

The chatbot will then get better with each use and will help to spread valid information. 

More Ways That Chatbots Can Be Used in COVID-19 Response Planning

Pandemics have specific characteristics that make them well-tailored to chatbot assistance. Pandemics differ from other natural disasters in the following ways:

  1. Individual actions can worsen the outcome, which means that one person has the ability to infect others easily.
  2. It is easy for the virus to spread from asymptomatic people, without anyone knowing it. The fear of infecting others can also make people hide their symptoms. 
  3. The physical gatherings that are essential to our core as humans (religious events, family gatherings and school trips) are the events that people are supposed to be avoiding. However, there are great concerns about future mental health impacts.

Chatbots can be used in the following ways to help plan for current and future health crises.

COVID-19 Response
  • Symptom monitoring: There are chatbots that make it easy for people to assess themselves and get immediate results so they can take precautions. Chatbots can help alleviate stress on the healthcare system and help to calm fears about catching the virus. Chatbots are well suited to screen for symptoms during a pandemic because people may avoid seeking medical care or treatment either because of fear of the stigma or because of fear of being exposed to the virus. Research has shown that people are more willing to discuss personal medical information with a chatbot than a human, which could result in more accurate possible diagnoses. An example of a symptom monitoring chatbot is COBO, which is a Facebook Messenger bot that asks questions to determine one’s risk of catching the virus.
  • Behaviour change support: In order to affect behaviour, information must be available. Chatbots present the ability to connect knowledge with action by providing step-by-step instructions, repetition, and presenting reliable information. Chatbots can offload this time-consuming work from healthcare workers. Penn Medicine has developed a chatbot that is intended to help assess symptoms, help patients find answers to questions surrounding COVID-19, as well as route them to the appropriate care. 
  • Mental health support: Due in part to the imminent dangers of COVID-19, physical needs are first and foremost. Unfortunately, this does not allow for mental health concerns to be addressed. People who are used to receiving in-person support for mental health issues were unable to keep up with those appointments. The pandemic has also caused great stress for many people, who were unable to get support. In the short-term, chatbots can help to provide support to those who are struggling with the psychological side effects of isolation. Preliminary studies suggest that chatbots may help to reduce mental health symptoms, although more research is needed. If chatbots are purposefully designed and used, they may lessen the long-term impacts of pandemic-related isolation, depression and trauma. 

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How Chatbots Can Be Used to Help Your Employees With COVID-19 Response

We have established that chatbots are effective when used by public and government agencies, but how can your company employ the use of chatbots during this unpredictable pandemic?

  • Virtual healthcare assistants: Many private companies and businesses put strict health measures in place after the lockdown began to lift. From social distancing methods to health questionnaires, finding people to stand at the front doors to administer these costs money. Consider using a chatbot to provide reliable information and clear guidelines, recommend protection measures, check and monitor symptoms, and advise individuals whether they need hospital screening or self-isolation at their home.
  • Facial recognition and fever detector chatbots: Cameras with AI-based multisensory technology have been deployed in a variety of public spaces (airports, hospitals, nursing homes). This technology automatically detects individuals with fever, tracks their movements, recognizes their faces, and can detect if the person is wearing a face mask.

Are you wondering how a chatbot can help you through the COVID-19 global pandemic? Get in touch with one of our team members today