Remote Communication Report: Collaboration in the new normality

  • April 15, 2021
  • by Ola Rybacka
  • No comments

Let’s face it: COVID changed our lives on many levels. And a return to the former status quo seems to be almost impossible. Slowly, but steadily we started to accept the new normalcy. Pandemic also changed the perception of the remote work that before was often questioned as less beneficial. Now it’s a standard required by both the problem and the workers’ increasing awareness.

A year after the first lockdown, we carried out comprehensive, two-way research that shows how much COVID affected the way we work. In the first part, we’d like to answer the most critical questions on remote communication itself – how it looks now, how the meetings are held, what are the users’ thoughts on asynchronous communication.

What’s in the Remote Communication Report?

  1. Introduction: Methodology
  2. Part I: time tracking data
  3. Part II TimeCamp users’ survey
  4. Expert’s voice
  5. How to make remote communication more effective?

Before diving into a full report, let’s take a look at the results in a nutshell. Feel free to share the infographic wherever you want!

remote work report infographic

👉  Introduction: Methodology

Why guessing when we can put the time tracking stats to good use? 

To get the whole picture, we decided that our users should comment on the TimeCamp data itself (while extremely valuable!). So we conducted two-pronged research:

  • In the first part, we compared the time logged by our users before and after the pandemic outbreak taking into account various points of view, as discussed below,
  • In the second one, we sent a questionnaire to randomly selected TimeCamp users, in which we asked them ten questions about the changes in the way they work and their feelings towards these changes.

What’s more, to complement the conclusions, we asked remote work advocates for commenting on the results, and they’re included in the third section below.

Note: Time records, as well as survey responses, were entirely anonymous.

Read also: How the coronavirus situation helped our team implement the remote work in two days

 

👉  Part I: time tracking data

Blessed with so much data, we analyzed the screen time entries gathered before and after the pandemic outbreak in March 2020. What we’re looking for were the answers to the following questions:

  • What has changed in the way our users communicate?
  • How much time do they spend on online communication? What’s the average time they spend on video calls and meetings?
  • Do they think they communicate effectively? Are they satisfied with remote collaboration?
  • How do remote teams communicate?
  • What is the usage of the tools, especially video conferencing software?

The results clearly show how remote work affected the overall working hours and time spent on communicating.

Let’s dive into these statistics! 

🗝️ Key takeaways:

✅ Online meetings > offline meetings

The results confirm what we’ve expected – working remotely made communication moved online.

  • The average time spent on online meetings per month became 100% percent longer: from 6 to 12 hours per user,
  • On the contrary, the average time for offline meetings decreased, from 16 to 11 hours per user per month.

✅ The overall usage of online communication tools increased significantly

As mentioned before, the communication moved online. So the fact that data shows a significant increase in communication and collaboration tools usage was entirely expected. That’s why we looked at how TimeCamp customers use two video call software that remote teams choose now the most often – Zoom and MS Teams.

  • Monthly average Zoom usage increased by 6x, from 45 to 270 min per user,
  • Monthly average MS Teams usage increased over 12x, from 40 to 490 min per user.
Track time directly in Microsoft Teams with TimeCamp time tracker. Sign up for an account - free forever!

👉  Part II TimeCamp users’ survey

Big data is, of course, extremely valuable, but we wanted to make it more human. In the third decade of March 2021, we sent a survey to the randomly selected TimeCamp users and collected hundreds of responses. The survey compares pre- and post-pandemic perceptions of remote work.

The survey consisted of 10 questions; the first two were about the way the participants work. The last eight applied only to those who answered they’re fully remote or working in a hybrid more.

Only 9% answered they were (and still are) working in the office since the pandemic outbreak.

The takeaway was clear: the pandemic situation changed their attitude towards working remotely and it also applies to the effects, like online communication.

☺️ Respondents find remote meetings effective

Based on the users’ thoughts that come from responses to the question “How do you find remote meetings” the majority of the respondents are satisfied with them, which confirms the diagram below:

 

remote communication remote meetings

☺️ Remote work affects contacts with friends and family positively

45% of the survey participants (working fully remotely or in a hybrid mode) appreciate spending more time with their close ones because of working at home. That’s the other side of the remote communication coin – maybe we were forced to go remote, but the last year taught us how to communicate in the virtual world so that there’s more time we can devote to our relatives and friends.

☺️ Effective communication is no longer associated with the place

Working in the office, we use synchronous communication, the model that assumes collaborating in real-time. However, thanks to the constant Internet connection, communication between teammates working simultaneously no longer requires being in the same place. Good usage of collaboration tools (as well as video conferencing software) is equally valuable as in-office discussions. That’s why our survey participants were pleased with spending less time commuting (72,9%) and having a flexible work location opportunity (39,5%).

😔 Lack of face-to-face communication

Users point out that they miss their co-workers and the office atmosphere. Those working fully in the office before the pandemic outbreak, however satisfied with online remote communication, think that video calls can’t replace face-to-face contact.

😔 Unclear messages and expectations

Besides the predefined answers, users could also provide their own thoughts. Few participants mentioned that the differences in time zones could complicate the entire communicating process a lot. Why? Because of asynchronous communication – it’s nearly impossible to respond at hand and can cause many misunderstandings.

👉  Experts’ voice

As you can see, data speaks for itself – the pandemic outbreak changed our working habits significantly and introduced remote work as new normality. However, we asked experts from this evolving area to share their thoughts on the results.

Kamil Rudnicki, CEO at TimeCamp

Kamil Rudnicki

I love that technology allows working remotely. But we have to learn how to benefit from this and cope with challenges. For example, the new challenge is how to manage flexible working hours from employees’ and employers’ perspectives.

 

 


Kamil Kotowicz, Product Manager & Business Development at HeySpace

remote communication Kamil Kotowicz

For many companies, the current situation is still something new. Switching to remote work and flexible working hours was quite a struggle, especially for enterprises that have never worked like that before. Collaboration tools were extremely helpful at the beginning, however, now there’s a time for new challenges like remote work optimization, especially by limiting the time spent on meetings or improving the overall team’s productivity.


Nadia Harris, Founder of remoteworkadvocate.com

Nadia Harris

As we see the rise of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other similar video tools, we shouldn’t forget about asynchronous communication flows, which is the key to remote work success.

Let’s face it – the “old normal” is gone and won’t come back and just like the industrial revolution created working standards in the 20th century, it’s now about time to reshape the work environment to thrive in the digital era.

Remote meetings – the statistics are quite positive but we can clearly see that there’s still a lot to do in order to master them. I’d say – let’s definitely focus on guidelines, automation, and engagement.


Kate Smith, Founder of The Remote Nomad

Kate Smith

It’s exciting to see how many companies are now embracing remote work. Companies are clearly seeing that this style of work is not only possible, but a smarter way to work.

Because remote work is new for a lot of companies and employees, and we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, there is still some progress to be made. As things open up, I think we’ll start to see this data evolve yet again, where more of the challenges will be addressed.


Iwo Szapar, CEO at RemoteHow

Iwo Szapar

Companies need to reevaluate the way they communicate and collaborate. It goes for both online, asynchronous meetings, and these held offline if there’s a need to discuss something face-to-face urgently. It requires setting guidelines and best practices for how these meetings would look and what should be done right before and after. 

👉  How to make remote communication more effective?

Struggling to adjust to the new situation is nothing wrong. Quite the opposite – it’s entirely normal. The same goes for (forced) remote communication. But luckily, there are many ways to make it easier!

✅ Set up the guidelines

First and foremost, decide the way your team is going to communicate. Whether it will be collaboration tools, video conferencing apps, or just e-mails combined with usual phone calls, be sure the entire team follows the same communication method and stays on the same page with ongoing projects.  

✅ Schedule regular check-in calls

Working in the office, most of us were used to meeting with the entire team at least once a week to discuss the workflow and project results. Who said you couldn’t do it online? Schedule as many meetings as your workflow requires and put them into the team’s calendar to ensure no one forgets about it. This is how we do in TimeCamp, and it works better than expected!

✅ Ask for an accurate problems explanation

Lack of face-to-face communication often causes many misunderstandings between coworkers. It’s visible, especially when it comes to written communication, where shorthands are nowhere as clear as while talking in person. That’s why encourage your teammates to be as descriptive as possible when choosing writing instead of calling. Ask them also for proper documentation and make sure everyone does it in the same way (e.g., Google Spreadsheets or Excel, Google Docs or Word documents, etc.). What is more, choose a cloud storage service to keep the records organized and easily accessible

✅ Record the most important meetings

It’s essential for those who can’t participate in the meeting, e.g., because of sick leave or vacation. With a video conferencing tool, you can record it and send them straight to the employee for watching it later and be sure they’re still on the same page with the entire team. Also, it’s perfect for further workflow analysis.

✅ Go visual

Remote communication requires new solutions to make our messages more attractive. That’s why instead of long tirades on a particular subject, just go visual, showing what you want to say in a minimum-word presentation. No matter if it’s discussing the workflow, presenting the projects’ results, or just a brainstorming session for upcoming gigs, just reduce the written messages to the minimum and show what you want in an engaging way. 

✅ Always trust your team

Remote workers admit that establishing a healthy, trust-based relationship with their managers and employer makes them relieved and more willing to put more effort into their action. Just because the boss can’t look over the employee’s shoulder doesn’t mean they’re not working – and if the case to discuss is urgent, there are always collaboration tools to do it fast and effectively. 

✅ Follow the office culture

Establish a remote work culture in your company – keep the employees engaged, even when they’re online. Schedule coffee breaks for the department at least once a week. Make some time just for fun and organize, e.g., monthly happy hours when the entire team does something together (in TimeCamp, we play escape rooms, what fun!). 


Last words: Remote communication in the new world

As the research results show: we must accept remote communication as the new normal. Still, there are some critical flaws; however, month by month, we’re getting more used to the situation and try to adjust. What’s essential, there are golden times for SaaS software, especially collaboration tools, that are extremely helpful in maintaining the highest level of online collaboration

Ola Rybacka

Community Manager at TimeCamp, Ph.D., and speech therapy student, full-time otaku. よろしくお願いします!

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