Communication guidelines for remote teams

Communication guidelines for remote teams - how to develop successful communication guidelines in your team

As part of your team, effective communication is key to success. But in the digital world we live in today, it can be difficult to ensure that everyone is communicating in the same way. Communication guidelines can help improve the effectiveness of team communication and avoid misunderstandings. In this article, you’ll learn how to create successful team communication guidelines.

In today’s workplace, partially or predominantly digital communicating teams are becoming more common. The ability to work from anywhere has many benefits for companies and employees. Greater flexibility and a better work-life balance are just two examples. At the same time, however, remote work also brings some challenges, especially in terms of communication.

What are communication guidelines?

Communication guidelines are a set of rules and recommendations that a team establishes to ensure that communication is effective and efficient. They help avoid misunderstandings and confusion and promote open and transparent communication within the team.

In a (predominantly) remote team, communication guidelines are especially important because team members may not (be able to) speak to each other in person or may not be in the same room. By establishing communication guidelines, remote teams can ensure that everyone knows how and when they*should communicate with other team members.

Why do volunteer teams need digital communication guidelines?

Many organizations and companies already have communication guidelines for public relations or individual communication channels. This is a great basis for cooperation. There are many good reasons to deal with this topic:

1. clear expectations

Digital communication guidelines help you set clear expectations for communication within the team. This includes the use of communication tools and channels, expectations regarding response times, working hours, and how conflicts are handled.

2. better coordination

Digital communication guidelines can help (volunteer) teams coordinate better. By giving all team members the same information and following the same rules for communication, everyone can focus on the work at hand, increasing the team’s effectiveness.

3. preservation of professionalism

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Digital communication guidelines help maintain the professionalism of the team. Clear guidelines for communication can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts, leading to a positive working environment and a better image of the organization.

Overall, digital communication guidelines are critical for (volunteer) teams to increase team effectiveness, coordination, and professionalism. When all team members know the same rules and expectations, the team can work more efficiently and focus on what matters most – advancing the good cause.

What aspects should be included in communication guidelines for remote teams?

You are completely free to design your communication guidelines according to your needs. However, it has proven helpful if you take the following aspects into consideration:

1. communication channels and tools

Remote teams want to have clear guidelines about what communication channels and tools they use. For example, this may include email, instant messaging, video conferencing, or a project management tool. Communication guidelines should specify which channels are appropriate for which types of communication.

2. use (restrictions) of the channels

As a team, it is important to communicate about the use and non-use of certain communication channels for certain information to ensure that important information is communicated quickly and effectively. Each communication channel has its own advantages and disadvantages, and it is important for the team to decide together which channel is best for which type of information.

3. response times

It is important that remote teams have clear expectations regarding response times. This can vary depending on the channel and type of communication. For example, an e-mail can be answered within 24 hours, while an instant message must be answered within 15 minutes.

4. time zone and working hours

Remote teams can be in different time zones, which can make communication difficult. Communication guidelines should therefore include clear rules about when team members are available and how they organize their working hours to ensure effective communication.

5. language and sound

Remote teams also want to agree on a common language and tone. This helps to avoid misunderstandings and cultural differences. Communication guidelines should specify what type of language and tone will be used in communication.

6. clarification of expectations

Remote teams need clear expectations about communication. This can include how feedback is given, how conflicts are resolved, and how decisions are made. The communication guidelines should also clarify what needs and preferences individual team members bring to the table in terms of digital communication.

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During the communication guidelines development process, all team members have the opportunity to contribute their opinions and ideas. This allows each person to feel heard and valued and can build team trust and commitment. When every team member feels that their voice is being heard, it can also help create a positive work environment where everyone can contribute and grow. A great opportunity for your team building.

Communication guidelines are in flux

Communication guidelines are essential to ensure clear and effective communication in teams and organizations. However, it is also important to recognize that these guidelines are not set in stone and that they need to be reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis. For example, when new communication channels are introduced, new team members join, or the needs of the team have changed.

Overall, it is important that communication guidelines are flexible and adaptable. Organizations should not limit themselves to using guidelines once they have been created, but should review and update them regularly to ensure they are always effective. This will help ensure clear and effective communication within the team and with the target audience.

How can the development of the communication guidelines be made time-saving?

Developing team communication guidelines is a great way to promote team building. By discussing and developing the guidelines together, you can work together as a team to ensure that everyone is communicating and working in the same way. This can lead to better collaboration and understanding within the team. As a rule, the development of the guidelines proceeds in 5 phases:

1st phase: Determines the purpose and scope of the guidelines.

Before you start creating communication guidelines, you need to be clear about the purpose and scope. What are the main objectives of the guidelines? Which areas of communication should be covered? Examples include use of communication tools, response time expectations, communication etiquette, etc.

2nd phase: Gathers feedback from team members

To ensure that the guidelines are supported by all team members, you should solicit feedback from everyone. You can do this through a survey or meeting to gather ideas and suggestions. This will give you a better understanding of the team’s needs and expectations.

Phase 3: Creates a draft of the guidelines.

Based on the results from steps 1 and 2, you can create a draft of the guidelines. Ensures that guidance is clear, concise, and easy to understand. Uses clear examples to ensure that everyone* on the team understands how the guidelines are applied in practice.

4th phase: Reviewed and revised

Once the draft is created, you should review and revise it as a team. Encourages the team to provide feedback and suggests changes if necessary. Ensures that all team members agree with the guidelines before they are adopted.

5th phase: Take all with you

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Once the guidelines have been adopted, you should present them to the entire team and ensure that everyone is confident in using all communication channels. Explains key points and ensures that all team members fully understand the guidelines.

Creating communication guidelines as a team can be a complex process, but it’s worth it. Effective communication guidelines can help improve team work and increase efficiency.

Guided or self-moderated process?

You can organize this process yourself or have an expert accompany you (in part). Especially if you are not yet sure about the choice of your communication channels or if you want a fundamental change in your communication, the support of an expert is recommended. However, if you already have a good communication infrastructure in place and your only concern is to prevent misunderstandings and establish a common communication culture, then you can easily implement the process yourself in your organization.

To help you implement your process in a time-saving manner, we have developed an online course that supports you in implementing your communication guidelines in a self-organized manner within one month. You can find more information about our online course here.

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