Work environments aren’t inherently self-sustaining, and that’s all the more true with distributed teams — they need extra TLC. That matters so much more now that remote work is the norm. Who doesn’t love flexibility and autonomy, even if it comes at the cost of collaboration and communication?

That said, without the right guardrails in place, misalignments can snowball out of control. If you’re looking for frameworks to set the stage and guide your team through inevitable obstacles, Clean Communication can help. 

Building trust in remote work environments

Lay the foundation for a healthy work environment by exploring Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC)

Why NVC? Trust is built through interactions centered around empathy and understanding while avoiding the coercive or manipulative language that can subconsciously make its way into conversations, such as “should” which implies that you have to do something “or else.” 

The founding principle: Everything we do, even unhealthy choices we make, is an attempt to meet a need.

Walk through the Stages of Awareness framework to learn about your own needs and how you experience the world around you. Where do you find yourself on this journey? By increasing your self-awareness, you’ll have a better chance of communicating with colleagues and empathizing with their needs. But the best person to start with is you. 

Clarify roles and responsibilities among distributed teams

Once you have an awareness of your own and others’ perspectives, learn the ARCI (accountable, responsible, consulted, informed) framework to set appropriate expectations for any projects to be done. 

Pro tip: Use these terms in your day-to-day work. Are you a Slack user? You can even make ARCI emojis and use them in your messaging.

Who is accountable for a project, and who is responsible? How are you defining the difference between the two? Does anyone need to be consulted or informed? Note it all down. 

Address collaboration challenges within distributed teams

Setting expectations upfront doesn’t mean that there won’t be conflict. Expect that agreements will be broken, and learn to repair them to decrease their frequency.

Use the Giving and Receiving Effective Feedback framework to learn how to approach these conversations. 

Keep these best practices in mind when giving feedback:

  • Intention should be around growth, not criticism
  • Check if the timing is right before starting a conversation
  • Reactivity is a sign to pause

Keep these best practices in mind when receiving feedback:

  • Start from a place of curiosity and enthusiasm
  • Agreement is not necessary, but validation is
  • Be introspective, reflect on patterns

Note: This framework works best around patterns. If something seems outside the norm, you might want to Check Things Out instead.

Resolve remote work conflicts

The How to Repair a Broken Agreement framework can help you find clarity and resolution. 

It’s especially easy to sweep conflict under the rug in remote work environments — be cautious not to make this a habit, unless you want problems and resentment to grow over time.