Communications for remote working
One of the main challenges while your team works remotely is making sure everyone can still work effectively at a distance. Isolation can be isolating so regular communication with staff is vital – and a key part of productive work and good mental health. Consider how, when and who will be communicating with staff. Even if there is no progress or apparently nothing to say, it’s a vital way to reassure people and provide leadership.
· Check in with your team regularly; daily team calls will foster teamwork while working remotely and also allow management to keep track work progress. Management calls to individual team members once a week also gives employees an opportunity to discuss any specific issues or concerns.
· Have your team check in with each other; periodic daisy change calls to all members of the team for moral boosting. It may help your team stay connected and give them opportunities to talk to someone outside of their home – the water cooler equivalent moment.
· Establish clear lines of reporting; make sure you team knows whom they need to report to and how. In addition, it may be necessary to reinforce company policies such as social media and media communications, annual leave requirements, sickness for example. It may be useful to provide employees with an electronic guide to setting out these expectations.
· Make sure they have all the hardware and equipment they need to work from home to create a safe working environment. Not just laptop, but software, phone, broadband or tether capacity, stationery, lighting, seat and desk etc and diversion of phones. Will you let employees use their own mobiles or company ones and is there enough data allowance for this?
· Do you have to make difficult staffing decisions such as furlough? Are consulting thoroughly with you staff ensuring they understand what will happen and why as well as what future recovery looks like?
· Many team members will have other family or household members at home, what can you do to assist them to have a good working environment? Flexible working, changes to rota, changes in job role etc.
· The tone you use when communicating is key, especially if there is an emphasis on written communications. Think about what you are trying to achieve – are you reassuring, consulting, directing people? All of these will require a different tone to ensure messages are coming across to your audience in the appropriate manner. Good tone choices will maintain good relations.
· Business contingency – this is time where employees may be concerned business survival and job safety it may be appropriate to share with them any reassurance you can provide as well as any potential business impacts. This may provide reassurance but also keep employees aware and informed if there is potential for the business to be negatively impacted. It also may provide a forum where these issues can be worked through together.
· What will a return to the place of work potentially look like? Although many businesses may be operating remotely for a little while yet, if you need to consider potential changes to the working environment you might want to consult with your team on any preliminary plans.
There may be important changes to your business whilst working remotely including levels of service and operating systems. It is important that you communicate these changes to stakeholders. This will not only ensure that they are aware you are open for business, but also manage expectations in times of change.
· Keeping stakeholders up to date will help maintain business profile and reputation, reassure stakeholders that the business is managing the situation and able to continue offering its services.
· Consider what information each group of stakeholders needs to be aware of whilst you are working remotely, and how to effectively communicate this to them. What needs to be said; is your office closed? How do people contact you? Are there any changes to service levels or any are services unavailable? Are you providing a new service in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?
· Ensure suppliers are aware of any change in contact details. Have you notified them of any changes in your usual ordering and delivery procedures?
· If your business takes a high level of calls, have you considered setting an automated message before connection to call handlers that explains employees are working from home and that there may be unexpected delays or interruptions such as dogs or children? This will also manage customer’s expectations if there are likely to be any delays.
· If calls aren’t automatically redirected from your office number to a home or mobile number, have you set up a voicemail with clear details of how to contact you, changes to operating hours etc?
· Has your website and social media platforms been updated with modified contact details, hours of operation, changes to service etc?
· Ensure employees update any email signatures to reflect key information such as service changes and contact details.
· If using video conferencing facilities, try to find the best platform for your business needs and that it has a secure connection. Provide clear virtual meeting details including connection instructions any passwords that may be required.
· When arranging virtual meetings, consider how to manage meetings with a high number of attendees. A webinar for example, may be more manageable than a conference meeting. Guidelines for meetings may be helpful setting out how people ask questions, who takes minutes etc. Familiarise yourself with the platform before any call to ensure meetings go as smoothly as possible.
· There are numerous digital methods of communication. Consider your stakeholders and how they are able to communicate during this time. It may be that customers are unable to use the internet and you may need to use other methods of communicating to your audience, for example community papers, post etc. It is important to analyse your audience to keep them included during these times of change.
· Communication is two-way - make sure you are open to feedback. Working remotely will have its challenges and perhaps a new system you have introduced is not working. Listen to feedback and don’t be afraid to implement further changes if required.