At this point, it’s safe to assume that the companies that were able to pivot to remote operations have done so and have adjusted to remote life. For those teams, modifying routines, creating a new personal workspace and workflow were just a few hurdles that they had to overcome.
For the most part, the challenges of transitioning were largely chalked up to the inherent speedbumps associated with any type of change. But there was one aspect of the transition to remote work that, if not actively managed by leaders, deteriorated quickly and had lasting effects on business operations, employee morale, and the customer experience: communication.
When most (if not all) of your team is working from home, it can both complicate and strengthen your communication as a company. Here are 6 helpful tips for creating effective communication channels between your remote employees.
1. Say Good Morning
One of the transition challenges employees face when working remotely is the lack of human interaction inherent to certain in-office routines. Some employees combat this by saying “good morning” to their colleagues daily through email or chat.
A quick hello helps the once in-office ritual transition to a virtual office space. Remember, this is not just when you are making a call, but also when sending an email or instant message. Now, this is not to say that everyone needs a “good morning” greeting every single day, but ask yourself, do you go days without sending a friendly greeting to someone you would always say hello to when you were working in the office? If the answer is yes, then adding this to your routine can help maintain a connection between colleagues.
2. Ask for Communication Preferences
Communication preferences play a major role in effective digital communication. In the age of technology, email and texting have moved to the forefront while phone calls have taken a bit of a back seat. Keep in mind, though, some people still prefer a phone call, and some still prefer the likes of a quick video call to carry out their correspondence.
Not everyone wants a phone call or a virtual meeting when seeking out communication, but it is good to ask what someone's preference is.
3. Adopt New Tools for Communication
At this point, I’m sure you’ve heard at least one person in your bubble complain of being “Zoomed out”. Adding diversity to your digital communication toolbox and allowing your employees to use multiple platforms for communication is a great way to help your business “grow” with the times.
Overall, adding diversity to the ways your team can communicate will help them stay connected and stave off any fatigue from using the same medium over and over.
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4. Avoid Micromanaging
When your team pivots to a remote work environment, leaders must have a certain level of trust in their team to be autonomous. Without this trust, the efficacy of remote work falls apart. Bombarding your team with meeting after meeting and tasks upon tasks quickly becomes overwhelming and feelings of being micromanaged set in.
Set appropriate deadlines and timelines and allow time for tasks to be completed. Also, remember to give support to someone who might be struggling with their remote work setup and try to avoid jumping to conclusions when a task is still waiting to be finished.
Soft skills like motivation, ambition, and proactivity don’t change simply because a work environment changes. If a team member's performance has changed since working from home, remain curious, and ask questions. Chances are this change is a symptom of a larger issue that a supportive leader who provides the right resources can help resolve.
5. Tone Is in the Eye of the Reader
Reading the “remote room” is a skill, one all remote workers have had to learn very quickly. Regardless of your intent, knowing the tone in which your email or IM will be read is critical. After all, that perception can change the words on the screen for better or worse.
Someone who is deflated by another’s perceived negative tone might have a hard time bouncing back when they are secluded at home. Tough times seem to be a common theme with 2020. Remembering to have empathy when speaking to others will help create a positive and supportive environment, even while working remotely.
6. Keeping up Camaraderie and Morale
Praising someone for a job well done is not necessary after every task, but now that a majority of us do not physically see our coworkers or managers, highlighting the little wins can have a big impact on morale. Take notice of someone else’s achievements by sending a congratulatory email or chat message to the entire group. Success inspires success.
Taking the time to conduct non-work-related meetings can also keep up team morale while working remotely. Having a virtual bingo or corporate happy hours injects an element of levity into your team culture, while also helping your employees stay connected during these tough times.
Even with a vaccine providing a light at the end of the tunnel, experts still predict that we will have been in “pandemic mode” for over a year before any meaningful return to normalcy takes shape (if we ever fully return at all). Now more than ever, effective communication is essential to business growth, effective operations, and retaining your team's top performers.
By building an effective communication strategy focused on comprehensive tools and empathetic messaging, you’ll be sure that your efforts are heard loud and clear by your employees.