In this three-part series, we share some of our experiences and ideas on how you can embrace remote working in the “new normal” - with people and culture at the core, underpinned by sensible technology choices to enable us to work smarter.
Part 1 - Internal Communication
As we co-exist with COVID-19 and navigate towards a “new normal” that includes the need to “work away” and “from anywhere” (offices, homes, ‘on-the-road’), communicating with a widely dispersed workforce, whether delivered by leaders or between colleagues, as we’ve discovered, is complex. By putting the communication needs of remote-workers at the centre of your thinking, planning and design, you’ll optimise effectiveness, consistency and inclusion. So what does this look like?
Involve remote team members
When people aren’t co-located, opportunities for incidental and spontaneous discussions and engagement, with either individuals and groups, aren’t available. And attempts to simply replicate how we communicate when we’re all ‘on-site’ risk either delivering a less-effective outcome or worse still, overlooking and inadvertently excluding remote workers. Before rushing to capitalise on COVID-19’s great Working From Home (WFH) experiment, particularly a permanent remote work requirement, leaders need to carefully consider, plan and experiment with delivering the communication needed to make remote work successful for the business and its people.
Use communication to embed the right culture.
Choose your channels wisely
Communication with remote team members needs to be efficient, effective and in these days of digital, as human as possible. Digital channels (emails, SMS, social, group chat, video) have their place but shouldn’t automatically be a default. Before simply pounding out an email, consider whether there is an easier, more effective and ‘more human’ approach. Don’t assume you need to “Zoom” - perhaps just picking up the phone is best. We should definitely understand and respect the impact of communication timing and channels on remote workers, particularly if they WFH. For remote work to ‘work’, managing and optimising an effective and human experience of communication will be both essential and ongoing.
At the same time, dealing with external parties may require a number of options being available to facilitate a video conference. Hands up if you have a swiss-army-knife of apps installed across your computers and mobile devices already? You may now need to decide between Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Chat or many other platforms for your internal needs, while still allowing flexibility of tooling for external meetings. Taking into account the devices people may use to communicate will help drive your decision, as will consideration of wider needs such as data storage and collaboration. For example, using Microsoft365 or Google G Suite as a standardised platform can deliver storage, email, chat, video conferencing and much more for cost-effective per-seat pricing, in an integrated and secure environment that is easy to use, but may not be compatible with systems you already have in place.
Getting your teams on board with these tools may require extensive migration programs, or they may only need a small project to get the urgently-needed capabilities up and running, allowing focus on a bigger program of migration to be considered later. Thought should be given to how to set up the workplace as well - many organisations don’t have sufficient video-conferencing hardware in place in their meeting rooms or on the desktops to allow for a much higher level of remote attendances at meetings. Many of the standardised hardware and software platforms now support Zoom and Microsoft Teams, at least, which makes considering workplace upgrades and re-configurations less costly and more easily able to be tested to see what works best for you.