Almost overnight, as covid infections and death rates spiraled, American office workers and students found themselves unplugging their classroom laptops and office workstations, and setting them up in a spare room at home. For over 80%, it was to be their first foray into the world of full-time working from home.
For many, the transition was relatively easy and trouble-free. For others, with older equipment or the wrong tools, it became very much a learning process. A process that now, may well see increasing numbers of workers and businesses choosing to continue working from home as the preferred option. As infection rates begin to fall, if you’re debating whether to stick with the ‘new normal, consider these 10 strong communication strategies for managing remote teams.
Add Visual Support Software to Your Toolkit
With so many changes ongoing at the same time, it’s easy for office management to begin to fail if your only contact is by phone, email, or messaging. The use of video conferencing will maintain that office closeness, and provide a better picture of how the staff is coping with this new way of working. It is also a far superior tool to email or telephone when it comes to staff motivation.
Collaboration Software for Remote Working
There is a whole raft of remote business collaboration software available now, including some with the above option included. There is no best. The best is the one most suited to your business model and what you want to achieve.
If closing the office has saved on the cost of utilities, cleaning, and servicing, now is a good time to invest some of those savings in upgrading your remote working package.
Make Daily Contact A Priority
Pre-covid, with a workforce of five, ten, or fifty sitting on the other side of your office partitioning, regular contact was as easy as opening the office door. Now, with a remote team spread maybe tens of miles in different directions, daily contact is of prime importance. Especially so in the early days, while everyone gets used to the new way of working.
Everyone is more productive when they feel they are a part of something. With all staff in the same boat from management downwards, involve the workforce in helping to iron out the gremlins and glitches, with their ideas and suggestions for how to maintain that all-important contact.
Lay Down Work Guidelines and Work Practices
There is no better time to improve work culture and productivity than when changing the way you operate. It also offers management the opportunity to show a little empathy, where slight deviations from the expected norm can bring benefits for the company and staff.
This can include expected start and finish times and communication policies such as:
- Are start, finish, and break times automatically recorded, or should each member keep a daily log sheet
- Will a little flexibility in start and finish times be acceptable, if it doesn’t impact overall productivity and makes life a little easier for many of your workers?
- If you intend to hold a daily brief, arrange a specific time suitable for all
- Should contact be made by staff before beginning a new project
Decide How Much Is Too Much Contact
Although in the early days’, daily contact is a must, too much contact can be a bad policy, often leading to reduced productivity and a demotivated workforce. For most small client queries or confirmation needs, an email or quick chat will probably suffice.
For those more important meetings, you can save time by setting a topics agenda. Include the order of business, and any questions you anticipate an answer to, then email it to all staff you expect to participate.
Make Full Use of Cloud Storage
Many projects require collaboration between different departments of the workforce, for instance between accounts and acquisitions. Dedicated software will use cloud storage by default. If your set-up doesn’t require the full package, make sure all staff is familiar with cloud storage, what it does, and how to share documents and related information.
Management to Staff, Staff to Staff Communications
Think back to those distant days of office working. Throughout the day there would be constant interaction between workers regarding shared projects, client needs, point clarification, and much more. It is one of the biggest aspects missed by employees when working from home.
Ensure your workforce has good communication channels such as Slack, Google Drive, Trello, or Skype. Or one of the many others that come as part of a full project package. Not only will it make shared project work easier, but it will also help make the distance between staff feel a little bit less.
Don’t Forget Ongoing Staff Training
Work from home routines should mimic those of the office as closely as possible and that means organizing team meetings, staff training, and motivation sessions. Again, this is where video assistance will play an important role in the organization, and allow teams and employees to have a virtual get-together.
A Little Appreciation Goes a Long Way
The transition from office to home working can be difficult for some. The lines between home and work can often get a little blurred, with staff signing on later, or working well past the normal finishing time.
If things seem to be getting a little out of hand, a one-on-one chat may produce the reason, and arrangements can be made to rectify the situation. If staff work to meet a project deadline, a quick thank you call the following morning goes a long way to show appreciation and helps maintain motivation.
Improve Your Remote Communication Strategies with Integrated Software
If you’re seriously considering operating your business remotely over the long term, look for fully integrated software packages that include the following:
- Task organizing
- Workload management
- Full real-time communications
- Cloud storage and sharing
- Progress tracking and checking
- App integration
- Remote access, especially with field-based operatives
No matter the outcome of the current pandemic, there is little doubt that home working is going to become mainstream during the course of the current decade. That might be full-on home working, or a mixture of home and office working. Whatever your business strategy, or where your workforce is based, a fully integrated communication system can streamline projects and increase productivity in both offices and when working remotely.