Communication is always a priority within any organisation. Whether you are conveying a meeting, sending emails, or cold-calling clients, effective communication is at the forefront of everything.
When it comes to remote working, the need for uninterrupted communication is much greater. In the absence of physical or face-to-face interaction, keeping remote teams connected becomes a challenge.
In times of crisis, coordinating employee efforts, ensuring seamless cross-departmental collaboration, and maintaining team productivity, with employees scattered across multiple locations, are some of the prime concerns. For maintaining business continuity, establishing the right lines of communication is critical.
With technology breakthroughs, messenger services, video chat and more, you can definitely keep the thread of communication going. However, what matters most is the quality and above all, the security of the information communicated with a remote workforce.
As remote working becomes the new norm, organisations often struggle to find the right balance in terms of facilitating communication in a way that engages employees and matches business needs.
Tips to Maintain Proper Communication When Working Remotely
In a remote workforce, there is a lack of sense of belonging and connection because employees are unable to engage on a daily basis. Casual conversations are not possible, and as a result, remote workers can frequently feel disconnected. In addition, distractions at home or the tendency to be distracted by non-productive things like watching videos or checking social media can cause impediments along the way, further hampering connections within a team.
Here are a few tips to enforce healthy communication pathways to keep your remote employees motivated and engaged:
1. Make Time for Social Interactions
Go beyond one to one temporal communication and find exciting ways to mimic co-worker interactions at the workplace. You can host virtual coffee breaks, mini competitions during the day, create interest groups, and facilitate communication between people with similar interests without going overboard. It will create some space for social interactions without overwhelming the employees with only one to one chats, which tend to get monotonous.
2. Choose the Right Communication Tool
Email conversations set the stage for formal interactions. For informal or casual interactions and greater team collaboration, choose the right communication tool that gives distributed teams the chance to stay engaged, keeping in mind that they are now working from their homes. The key here is to make it easy for your employees to stay updated with the latest company updates and find all the information they need, without searching too much for it.
3. Don’t Bombard your Team with Messages
At the same time, don’t follow-up on the same task on different channels such as email, text, or phone. This is not only ineffective but also annoying. So, choose your digital communication channel wisely. After all, the channel you choose can create different demands on the receiver at any point in time.
4. Recognise Accomplishments and Create Space for Celebration
It is important to recognise good performance and career milestones of your employees. However, it is even more important to do so with remote workers. The aim is to recognise their contribution so that they feel valued. Go out of your way to publicly applaud your employees for their efforts in real-time. Create virtual spaces such as message boards for birthdays, anniversaries and customer appreciation emails/letters to celebrate successes and strengthen relationships, laying the foundation for greater collaboration. Acknowledge their efforts by taking advantage of digital tools and platforms, like video conferencing, social media, email, and instant messaging to send a ‘hi-five’ instantly.
5. Be Transparent
Apart from staying connected with co-workers, remote employees also need to be connected with their line managers and other departments. They should always be informed and updated with the current happenings, and managers should always be encouraged to be transparent with their subordinates. This will create a culture of openness and help the employee to stay committed to the company mission and goals. Also, the more transparent you are, the less room you leave for misinterpretations, assumptions, and other potential missteps.
6. Encourage Feedback, Questions, and Concerns
Keep the lines of communication open both ways. Let your employees know that you are always available to address their concerns or questions. Encourage them to share their candid feedback at appropriate times, giving them a platform to voice any issues. This will help you solve problems proactively and also improve employee satisfaction.
7. Define Goals for Remote Workers
According to research, 39% of people working from home complete their tasks faster than those in fixed workplaces. However, to make this a reality, employers have to delineate and communicate measurable goals. As things can get lost in translation when communication is not concise, it’s vital to be clear about the duties, responsibilities, and expectations of the employees.
8. Check-in with Employees
Finally, check-in (not check-up) on remote employees often. Don’t wait for an employee to speak up as that may be too late. Regular weekly, fortnightly team chats with fixed agendas will not suffice. Be sure to also include informal and social check-ins, making it more open. Also, frequently ask a simple question such as “How can I help you be more productive and feel more connected?” Make some space for personal interaction to check on the employee’s wellbeing. This can help you identify any stressors or feelings of isolation.
What Will Happen if Communication is Not Made a Priority?
The pitfalls of remote communication tools are many. Communication, as it is, can be a challenge for many in terms of opening up and sharing their ideas candidly. With remote working, the quality of communication can worsen.
Healthy communication should not just be looked at as a means to transfer information. It should also be informal, on occasion, to encourage remote employees to be more engaged in their work. Neglecting the communication needs of a remote team will not only affect its performance but also impact business outcomes.
Firstly, your employees will feel disengaged and productivity levels may drop. Also, creativity and employee initiatives could suffer, leading to low quality of work.
Secondly, a single disengaged employee can potentially have a domino effect, consciously or unconsciously spreading negativity across the team. This can further lead to resentment and undermine team spirit.
As digital interactions become more common, there is greater room for miscommunication or misunderstanding. Employees may not be on the same page and feel disconnected.
Ultimately, technology alone may not be enough to bridge the gap. Instead, a holistic understanding of the communication needs of your employees is required. With the combination of technology, tools and impactful communication, your task of managing remote employees can become much easier.