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What is real-time communication and how to use it?

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Have you ever had to email back and forth with someone to resolve a simple issue?

You’ve probably spent a lot of time and energy — and the final outcome wasn’t really worth it.

Isn’t there a better way of communicating with coworkers?

Sure there is — and it comes in the form of real-time communication.

In this article, we shed some light on this form of communication and explain its challenges and benefits. As a bonus, we also included 5 tips to help you improve real-time communication in your remote workplace. 

What is real-time communication?

Simply put, real-time communication is a type of communication where there is no delay between the moment one person sends a message and the moment the other person(s) receive(s) the message

It’s also called synchronous communication.

When someone mentions communicating in real time, people usually think of face-to-face conversations — but, it can also be done through different types of communication tools.

Types of real-time communication tools

The following are the most commonly used types of real-time communication tools.

Type #1: Phone calls

Although decreasing in popularity among young generations, phone calls are still an efficient way to communicate — you can condense a fair number of email exchanges into a single call.

Type #2: Video conference tools

Thanks to the pandemic and the major shift to remote work, the popularity of video conferencing tools skyrocketed.

Similarly to phone calls, they are concise and direct — and they’re closer to face-to-face communication, as you can also see the faces and mannerisms of other participants.

Type #3: Team messaging apps

When used correctly, team communication apps can be a great all-around solution for remote team communication, thanks to their wide variety of features.

Another benefit of theirs is that exchanges are written down, which leaves less room for misunderstandings and lets you go back to messages again later if needed.

What is an example of real-time communication?

What better way to understand the concept than to provide an example?

Imagine this:

Craig is a bank accountant, and he is making great progress with persuading a big client to take interest in the bank. 

He needs a subtle way to ask his superiors whether the negotiated conditions are OK, so he uses a team messaging app to send a direct message. 

Craig gets a quick response, and he doesn’t have to disrupt the conversation.

Why is real-time communication a challenge for remote teams?

When you work remotely, trying to communicate with your team in real time can get tricky.

These are the most common challenges remote workers face:

  • Different time zones when teams are international or global, 
  • Great physical distance, 
  • Language barriers, 
  • Body language differences, and
  • The realities of daily life coming in the way — such as hyperactive pets, poor internet connection, or unexpected visitors.

Why is real-time communication important for remote teams?

What exactly are the advantages of real-time communication?

Let’s find out!

Benefit #1: Real-time updates

Being able to get real-time updates means that important information can flow quickly, with no time delay. 

This way, employees can easily stay in the loop and get important news as soon as possible.

Benefit #2: Instant feedback

Just as quickly team members get notified of important updates, they can give and receive feedback.

When a team uses a team messaging app, members can respond and resolve the issue at hand immediately upon being notified of a message directed at them.

Benefit #3: Less room for miscommunication

The shorter the time delay, the less room for miscommunication to occur.

In short — it is easier to ask questions and clarify what you mean in this format. 

Benefit #4: Immediate access to shared files

When a real-time communication tool has the feature to instantly share files, workflow naturally improves. 

You don’t have to deal with untimely emails — instead, you can get right to the necessary resources without taking detours.

5 Tips to help establish and improve real-time communication in remote workspaces

So far, we went over the meaning of real-time communication, its challenges and benefits, as well as the most important synchronous communication tools.

Now, it’s time to share 5 tips that will help you communicate in real time.

Tip #1: Use the right collaboration tools

Simply put — no tools, no communication happening at all (at least when you’re working remotely).

So, make sure to invest in high-quality tools that have all the right features to enhance collaboration. 

In addition, the right tools will save you money and increase productivity and information accessibility. 

Tip #2: Provide detailed instructions and guidelines

Do your best to provide:

  • Clear, detailed instructions of everyone’s roles and responsibilities, and 
  • Technical instructions and training on how to use specific collaboration tools.

With clear instructions within reach, team members are less likely to:

  • Overstep their roles,  
  • Inappropriately interact with others, or 
  • Neglect their duties.

Tip #3: Encourage a proper work-life balance

When you have a good work-life balance, you won’t experience as much stress when it comes to real-time communication during work hours.

You will be well-rested, more productive, and in a better mood.

Some ways you can achieve a work-life balance are:

  • Limiting screen time outside of work,
  • Turning off notifications,
  • Taking time to really decompress and relax, and
  • Engaging in light physical activity, such as yoga or walking your dog.

Tip #4: Normalize transparency and encourage feedback

By this point in time, it should be obvious that you should be transparent about internal processes and encourage employee feedback. 

This is especially important since remote work can add a level of isolation between team members — and real-time communication can be used to dissolve it.

Open, frequent communication and regular feedback make employees feel more involved and engaged.

Tip #5: Make room for informal activities

When team members engage in collective activities, their sense of trust, solidarity, and familiarity grows, along with increasing their future collaboration efficiency

As a result, their communication also improves — you communicate better with someone you trust and are comfortable with.

Some fun team-building ideas include:

  • Informal video meetings,
  • Game-playing sessions, and
  • Discussions about common interests.

Further reading

This is just a summary of an article previously published on the Pumble blog.
To learn more about real-time communication, we recommend reading the full article: