Back in March when the UK (and most of the world!) went into lockdown, businesses across the country found themselves having to adapt to remote working, and fast. Whilst remote working isn’t a new idea, for many businesses it was the first time that their staff were all working remotely at the same time.
All businesses know the importance of external communication, be it through marketing campaigns or direct client correspondence, but it’s easy to forget about the importance of internal communication. If you have staff working remotely then internal communication becomes ten times more important.
Strong internal communication practices form the foundations for not only a successful company but also successful projects which result in happy clients. Employees can’t be expected to successfully speak to clients and represent the company brand if they aren’t well informed about brand values, updates and projects.
Organisations who put time and resource into their internal communication strategy often create a culture where staff are happy and fulfilled and where employees are comfortable brainstorming new ideas.
Internal communication can be tough though, even when everyone is in the same office, so trying to ensure staff are kept linked up and in the loop when they’re working from home can be even trickier. Whether your whole workforce works remotely or it’s just a few members of staff, here are some top tips for ensuring communication levels remain strong.
Set Expectations From the Start
Just like you have expectations and norms when working in the office, the same is needed for remote working too. Ideally before staff start working from home clear expectations and guidelines should be set and communicated clearly to them. If staff are expected to work set hours or check-in at set times then it’s a manager’s job to make sure they fully understand these requirements before beginning remote work.
Use a Shared System
Shared systems online are the perfect way to keep colleagues connected, even when they aren’t together in person. In today’s digital age there are plenty of options such as Slack and Trello that allow workers to update each other on the status of a project. From sharing calendars to sending messages, uploading files and combining to-do lists; shared online systems are an essential tool to keep remote workers connected and projects on course for completion.
Just because staff are working remotely doesn’t mean they can’t and shouldn’t still be able to attend meetings. Internal team meetings are a key way to communicate latest news and updates and give staff the chance to raise any concerns or questions of their own. Virtual meetings have come a long way over the past few months. Favoured software such as Zoom and Skype allow multiple members to take active roles in meetings.
Meeting Agendas and Minutes
Whilst holding virtual meetings is key to keeping communication open, without a set agenda they risk becoming too long-winded and unproductive. Set a clear agenda for the meeting and distribute it beforehand. Consider including time at the beginning or end for people to ask questions or raise other points of concern.
Whilst staff are working remotely it’s more important than ever to follow up meetings with detailed and clear minutes. Employees can no longer pop over to a colleagues desk to ask what they missed or to clarify something that was discussed. Making sure sending out detailed minutes becomes the norm after all meetings is a great way of ensuring staff are kept informed and up to date.
Whilst formalities and corporate behaviour is sometimes necessary, when communicating with remote workers sometimes the best way to do so is more informally. If you need a response to something quick then an email that may end up getting lost in their inbox isn’t the best way forward. Instead consider setting up an internal messenger service or arranging one-to-one informal calls or video meetings with colleagues to ensure everyone has the chance to raise questions or ideas.
The key to successful remote working is being flexible and it’s important that you communicate this to all of your employees. Unlike in the office, people are likely to have other distractions when working at home such as children, pets and housemates. For some members of staff they may need to tweak their working hours to fit around other commitments. Try where possible to accommodate this but make sure other members of staff know when the best time to contact each of their colleagues is in order to avoid a stream of unanswered emails and phone calls.
Effective internal communications help to make businesses more efficient and employees are likely to be happier and more productive. As the workplace continues to evolve, ensuring employees stay connected and communication channels stay open will be the key to retaining staff and sourcing the best talent in the future.