Communication strategies to help distributed teams work together effectively.

Checklist for team leaders

Establish a ‘Single Source of Truth’

  • Create a handbook or similar repository where everyone knows they can go to find up to date information.
  • Instruct teams to update this source continually (have them write it into their processes).
  • Set an example by updating and referring to it regularly.
  • Make the handbook editable (by request) by everyone in the organization.
  • This source should contain:
    • Policies and procedures
    • Team agreements
    • Process documentation
    • Links to project boards / documentation
    • Organizational information
    • Team roles / responsibilities

Set standards for team communications

  • Determine what tools will be used universally among team members (email, chat, etc.)
  • Designate which tools are used for what purpose
  • Agree on expected response times for various comms channels during work hours
  • Empower asynchronous communication through collaboration tools

Establish regular touchpoints for teams

  • Recurring all-hands calls (weekly/monthly)
    • Teamwide updates
    • Informal training / information sharing
  • Daily check-in on video call for teams working together often
    • What I did yesterday
    • What I’m doing tomorrow
    • Blockers / questions / action items
  • Regular retrospectives of projects or internal efforts
    • What went well
    • What could be better
    • Action items / what we’ll do next time

Foster human relationships

  • Establish online calls that encourage human connection
    • Weekly topic-based social calls for small groups of employees
    • “Virtual coffee” for two or three employees to connect
    • “Virtual happy hour” or similar end-of-week team gathering
  • Encourage video-by-default for online meetings
  • Set group chat channels that prompt non-work conversations
    • #appreciations / #celebrations / etc.
    • #pets / #parenting / #gardening / #health / etc.

Checklist for teams

Work in the open

  • Use a “Single Source of Truth” to document and centralize information
  • Update tickets and documentation continuously
  • Err on the side of over-communication vs. under-communication
  • Default to public channels in group chat so knowledge is shared
  • Share drafts and information early and often
  • Use collaborative ways of working (i.e., shared note-taking document)
  • CC relevant people in emails, but be clear about whether a response is expected (and from whom)

Communicate with empathy

  • Assume best intentions
  • Ask clarifying questions / seek additional context
  • Be clear about what you need
    • Clear = “I have a non-urgent question about…”
    • Unclear = “Hey, are you busy?”
  • Give recognition and appreciation often
  • Recognize that conflict and tension are normal – seek to identify the root cause

Employ best practices for group chat

  • Use “threading” to keep conversations tidy and easy to follow
  • Use notification settings to cut down unnecessary noise (snooze, mute channels, Do Not Disturb, etc.)
  • Use status to indicate your availability (away for lunch, vacation, caring for kids, etc.)
  • Create channels for groups or topics
  • Use group chat for:
    • Social conversations / interesting links
    • Quick questions / clarifications
    • Real-time exchanges with folks in your timezone
    • General announcements
  • Don’t use group chat for:
    • High-level conversations
    • Big decisions
    • In-depth feedback


Group chat tools

Handbook tools



Team Handbook Examples





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