Communication with remote employees is a complex topic.

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People are people and react in different ways to different types of communication. Choosing the right method will be key to your success in keeping your team positive and proactive if they were suddenly required to work remotely.

In recent times, many employers and employees have been required to adapt to a remote working situation without drills – and in some instances, even without much notice. This is completely different to employees choosing to work remotely!

 

From an employer’s point of view, in a digital world, employees can be allowed similar levels of access as they are in the office.

Some people need lots of contact, some people need clear and repeated direction and some are able to carry on and just require check-ins.

The same will apply in a remote situation, with a degree of amplification.

Those who need continued contact and reassurance will probably become somewhat anxious, while those who are happy to keep calm and carry on will need to be called in for their check-in!

The key is to keep people connected and on track – bear in mind that some will feel out of sorts, so having a Zoom Room or Hangouts open during standard office hours & rostering your managers or senior team to be present in those spaces across the day will keep most in a zone of comfort.

Some digital tools that your managers could investigate to keep their team members focused and relaxed could include:

  • Morning team briefings via Zoom with follow up notes in the chatbox distributed to all.
  • Shared files on Google Drive or Office 365 updated in real-time.
  • Slack Channels by key sub-topic to keep the team updated – just as they would across the office. Slack integrates with Google Drive, Gmail, MS Onedrive, Outlook Calendar, Dropbox, SalesForce, Zoom, Asana & Trello – it’s a brilliant tool for managing communications across multiple topics without being overwhelming and even has an in-built App for Polls & Surveys called Polly to capture feedback and team culture.
  • Voxer is a wonderful app that is super useful in situations where the use of voice is better than typing messages, but a record of the conversation is required. Voxer has the option of typing text style or via voice communication and can be used one to one, within a group conversation or a one way broadcast to all from a group manager.Vocal communication can sometimes be more effective in communicating a message than written communication, where the tone of voice helps the receiver understand the unwritten emotion or attitude – and it is of course much more time efficient for busy managers.
  • Finally, enabling TeamViewer on computers may also assist where people get stuck and visual insight to what they are working on is required.
    Be sure to advise people before jumping on a TeamViewer link so they can clear their screen of anything that may be confidential – and assure them that they must approve the connection before you can view their screen so they do not feel invaded.
    Instituting Quiet Time Zones in each day will enable focused productivity. Zoom Rooms should show an on screen notice to ensure everyone is clear that it’s a no-fly zone until the next catch-up.

Virtual Afternoon Tea Zoom Rooms – created especially for team chats will help people feel connected by seeing everyone on screen – but you will need to invite them to speak one at a time (people can initiate private chats with any particular person in the chatbox if they wish to during these, but most tend not to be comfortable in doing so at first).

Other things that will help keep people stay in office mode will be to ensure employees maintain your required dress code – including uniform if they usually are required to wear uniform, ensure that office hours are maintained – including clear breaks, and that designated manager roles are nominated so employees know who to go to for things like technical problems and how to best reach out to that person.

By creating out of office protocols and embracing new modes of communication, you may even find a new way of managing business communications after the team has safety returned to your premises.

Finally, when ‘back to normal’ is re-established – make sure you celebrate and get feedback on everyone’s experience.