6 remote communication alternatives to use when your team is tired of video calls

How to avoid Zoom fatigue by setting up a virtual team communication framework designed for highly productive remote work.

September 7, 2021

How did you feel the last time you hung up a video call? If the answer is tired, you’re not alone.

Zoom was catapulted into the spotlight back in 2020, as newly remote companies shifted from having real-life meetings to exclusively virtual ones—a lot of them. 

Since remote communication became the new normal, many remote workers have been experiencing something called “Zoom fatigue”; a feeling of tiredness after finishing yet another video call.

Are regular online video meetings even necessary? As a seasoned remote company, we surely don’t think so. 

For years, distributed teams have shown more productivity than co-located ones, and how often they hopped on a video conference was never a factor. On the contrary, most teams reduced the number of virtual meetings to the bare minimum.

In this article, we’ll share our secrets on how to communicate remotely whilst remaining super productive—without video conferencing


Different remote communication styles

There are two types of remote team communication: Synchronous and Asynchronous.

Synchronous communication is any conversation that takes place in real-time. For example, you’re brainstorming with someone and they’re responding to you right then and there.

Synchronous communication methods include:

  • Video calls

  • Phone calls

  • Instant messaging on Slack or other team chat platforms

  • Live meetings

Asynchronous communication is any digital communication that happens “out of sync” or in other words; not in real-time. For example, sending an email to a colleague would be considered asynchronous communication because you don’t expect an immediate response.

Other asynchronous communication methods include:

  • Recorded meetings

  • Slack or other team chat platforms

  • Project management apps

  • Email

At The Remote Company, we practice asynchronous communication and only organize Zoom calls when they’re absolutely needed. 

If individual teams think certain topics are better discussed during a phone call, they’re welcome to do so. But for most situations, we make internal communication work via other collaborative project management tools. We do this because we want people to have focus time, and team meetings can interrupt their work.

This approach better suits an asynchronous workflow. With employees working across six continents, it will always be an early morning or late-night affair for one of us.

In this article, we’ll share our secrets on how to communicate remotely whilst remaining super productive—without video conferencing


Start with communication guidelines

Do you have a standard set of guidelines that everyone follows? The more detailed your virtual communication guidelines are, the better. People are more at ease when they know how to communicate and what to expect, especially new members.

Writing down your communication process can help you see the bigger picture and recognize where obstacles occur and how to solve them. Afterward, you can share the written guideline with your team and make it part of the onboarding process.

Some things that are in our guidelines include:

  • We practice asynchronous communication and don’t expect real-time responses

  • You’re encouraged to block time for deep work throughout the day. Just make sure to update your Slack status with a “Do not disturb until ...” message

  • If you organize a meeting, let people know well in advance so they can schedule their tasks accordingly

See exactly how we handle remote communication in the Slack communication chapter in our public handbook.

Here are six other effective remote communication techniques to replace video meetings and work more productively.


6 video call alternatives for effective remote communication

1. Daily communication: Slack

Working with a remote team means you have to put extra effort into communicating. We encourage people to over-communicate on Slack. This ensures that no details get lost and people that start their day later can catch up on what has been discussed.

The key is to keep it organized. Here’s how we approach Slack:

  • We star channels that are connected to our team or we use most

  • We mute channels that aren’t really essential, but we still want to be part of

  • Channels center around 1 specific topic to make it easier to search for information

  • When people mention an issue (or similar), they need to add all relevant details. Team members that will solve the issue need to communicate a deadline and updates.

  • Everyone is encouraged to create channels! They can announce their idea in the general chat

  • If people are no longer interest, they’re free to leave (we promise we won’t take it personally)

Encouraging people to leave when the channel is not their cup of tea anymore helps create more engaging channels. It’s kind of like letting people go when they unsubscribe from emails.

2. Task management: Notion

Notion is a remote project management tool that we use across all departments to create new tasks, input schedules, and upload internal documentation all in one place. At a glance, team members can follow internal processes and learn how the team functions. 

The search feature makes it easy to quickly find information—from vacation policies to our brand voice and customer’s requested integrations.

When someone has a question, 9 out of 10 times the answer can be found on Notion.

Having everything you need at your fingertips helps people feel more independent and develop their own workflow. Teams will also be better equipped to add and improve processes, now that they know how it’s done. 

Learn more about how remote project management enhances our independent spirit.

3. Internal newsletters: MailerLite

A good way to keep the entire team informed about what all the departments are working on is by sending monthly internal newsletters. These help everyone stay on the same page and make it easy to access and refer back to important information.

At The Remote Company, we all receive monthly newsletters with progress updates from the support team, project management, marketing and HR. In these newsletters, we include links to presentations, video meetings (we record and share all of them) and talk about our biggest achievements and future plans.

Working as part of a large remote company can mean you don’t see or speak to some other teams for months at a time. By sharing updates in internal newsletters, each team can stay entirely in the loop.

4. Pitching ideas: Google Docs

Do you have an idea that can help grow the business? To keep idea-sharing structured, we ask our team to write down proposals about why an idea is useful, what needs to be improved and how. Then we share the document with the people that could contribute and comment on it, and assign the right person to make the ideas a reality.

When people are forced to write out their ideas in a document, they think about how and what should be done and realize whether their idea is actually good or bad. Arguments are very rational in written format. 

Having the idea in a shared document also makes it easier to have a structured discussion, as everyone can chime in. In meetings, some people are often louder than others. In written form, we collect far more comments and make more progress than we would in a meeting.

5. Reflection and support: 15Five

As part of our monthly ritual, we ask everyone to answer five questions in our feedback tool 15Five. We always start with the same question: “How did you feel at work this week?” It’s mandatory and a great way for managers to see how their team has been feeling.

While each check-in is reviewed by a manager, it isn’t a real-time 1:1. So team members can submit their thoughts without feeling self-conscious.

Remote workers have less opportunity for “water cooler chats” where chatty colleagues naturally gather, share their opinions and offer each other advice. So having a space to voice any frustrations and receive actionable feedback makes 15Five an essential remote team communication tool.

6. Team building: Annual meetups

Meeting up in real life is like a booster pack for remote communication. Rather than having hundreds of conference calls a year, have at least one annual, fully immersive meet up where team members can collaborate in real life, incubate ideas, get to know each other on a personal level and recharge their connection to the team.

We organize our workations once per year, and also have a “work together” budget for individual teams to meet up separately.

Meetups can be especially beneficial for new employees and first-time remote employees. You can feel like an outsider at any new job, but working from home by yourself can increase that feeling ten-fold.

Our get-togethers always strengthen the bond between coworkers, old and new—whether we’re jetting off to an exotic location, or ahem a global pandemic forces us to take our workations online.

By meeting your colleagues face to face and seeing their body language, you can get to know them on a deeper level and that translates into effective virtual communication.


Every rule has an exception

Remember how we said that we only host video chats when they’re really necessary? We do make some exceptions:

Monthly team-building calls!

It’s a tradition that we’ve been doing for several years. In this video call, the entire team meets, plays games and talks about non-work related topics. Things like what we’ve learned, who inspired us and what books had a big impact on our lives. 

We share the topic for the remote call when we send the invitations, mostly a couple of weeks beforehand. 

Though we always start with 140+ people in one main room, we split up in random groups of around 20 people when we actually start having the conversations.

Sprint planning meetings.

Sprint planning meetings are where we set project goals for the upcoming “sprint”. Like a team huddle where the plans for the next few weeks are discussed before we break and get to work.

Even these important team meetings are designed to suit our remote team. All calls are recorded and posted to our private YouTube channel where people who didn’t attend the meeting live can catch up on everything that was planned.


Why we prefer these alternatives over video

Most work-related matters can be solved in written form.

In fact, written communication is actually better! The discussion is better structured and people feel more encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas. Writing down ideas can help people organize their thoughts, get a better overview and make quicker progress towards reaching goals.

The next time you set up a video call meeting, think if it’s a) really necessary and b) if you could use an alternative way to communicate instead. Could a video call be a Google Doc? Could Google Doc be a Slack message?

Less video conferencing means less Zoom fatigue. Which equals a happier and more energetic team!

How does your company communicate online? Are you experiencing Zoom fatigue? Let's talk in the comments.

P.S Want to improve your remote collaboration even more, check out this list of communication tools for remote workers.

Ilma

I’m Ilma, COO at The Remote Company. I love seeing our customers succeed. When they win, we win.

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