Companies that operate in multiple sites, cities or countries may have found the transition to homeworking in the wake of Covid-19 easier, having been used to communicating predominantly via virtual channels. Smaller companies may have found it a bigger challenge, having to set up staff with laptops and other resources in order to enable them to work from home successfully.
The topic of home working can be divisive, with many business leaders worried that breaking away from the traditional environment and working hours will have a detrimental impact on team morale and productivity. And how would working independently impact communication?
Below we take a more in-depth look into the benefits and challenges for internal communications when whole companies are working from home.
How working from home has benefited internal comms
Despite trepidation by many, the enforced lockdown sent most of the UK workforce into a home-working scenario. We are all creatures of habit, so this meant an adjustment period as office teams settled into a new way of working and overcoming barriers and concerns. In this time, forward-thinking employers quickly recognised there was one element that would be crucial to success – strong, consistent and regular internal communications.
Daily meetings and regular catchups
From daily digital ‘huddles’ to weekly conferences delivered in a range of ways, keeping in regular contact is crucial in making sure that employees don’t become isolated in their approach to the workload. This helps teams to effectively prioritise tasks and make sure that deadlines are met.
Before this perhaps wasn’t needed as office chat happening naturally throughout the day meant that individuals were all kept in the loop. As this is impossible when teams are fully remote, the emphasis on daily huddles means efficiency continues.
Through this increased dialogue, team members at all levels can confidently seek further guidance and clarification on work and ask for the input of colleagues through a variety of means, maintaining a collaborative approach.
Increased trust between teams and Senior Leadership Teams
A top-down approach is required when it comes to consistent communication. Leaders and senior members of staff cannot expect productive and proactive communication without being dynamic and transparent themselves.
That means providing accurate information about the business, inviting feedback and upholding the integrity of meetings, sticking to agreed meetings and frameworks, demonstrating that communication is a priority for all. Naturally, trust and respect between employees and the senior leadership team is built.
Empowered employees thrive and continue the unified approach to excellent communication.
Scheduled drinks or virtual social time
Relaxed ‘happy hour’ video calls, conversations of all kinds should be encouraged, because social interaction is critical to excellent internal communication both horizontally and vertically within an organisation.
Before the pandemic, the thought of being on a video call may have made even the most resilient employee uncomfortable. Now spending ‘facetime’ with people that we have professional relationships with is the key to making them stronger and more fruitful.
Thankfully there are a variety of video calling platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype to facilitate this, and we’re all going to be pros soon!
More tracking of communications
When conversations are had in passing in a traditional office environment, there is no way to track them, and returning to them requires both parties to stop to revisit.
Using email and direct messaging tools like Slack and Teams more heavily increases efficiency by providing a way for communications to be tracked and revisited for further guidance and clarity.
How working from home has been a challenge for internal comms
At the root of this problem is two things – company culture and improper technology. A lack of emphasis on building a culture of support and trust or a collaborative team means that employees will begin working in silo, without seeking clarification of input from seniors and colleagues.
Less ‘water cooler chat’ to build colleague relations
A diminished opportunity for informal social interaction can lead be detrimental to colleague relationships, as employees experience feelings of loneliness and isolation. Individuals can begin to withdraw from teams and communication can become stunted as a result.
The need for daily virtual team catchups and weekly one-to-one to provide social interaction becomes more apparent to prevent this communication breakdown. Another way to maintain good colleague relationships is scheduled team socials such as Friday afternoon drinks.
More difficult to ask for tips, help, or advice
Asking for extra help, input or clarification is part and parcel of the daily happenings in an office. It can feel like an interruption or a chore when the same questions are being asked using digital means. Company culture must serve to change this perception and the approach to seeking further information must be embedded into the culture. While it may require colleagues to stop what they are doing, by refusing to do so they are risking further inefficiency down the line.
To support the communication required when home working, companies must implement the right technology. Email isn’t enough anymore; the channels of team communications must make keeping in touch with each other as easy as when colleagues are sitting side by side.
Harder for leaders to just ‘check in’ on their teams
It’s no secret that remote working requires a different leadership style and it is likely that it will need you to bring your whole self to every interaction with colleagues and employees.
Working remotely doesn’t afford the same opportunity to pick up on someone’s mood, changes in behaviour, and simply whether they are having a good or challenging day. Senior leaders will need to place a focus on employee wellbeing, using consistent communication to monitor how their teams fare in this time.
Impersonal feeling to meetings or phone calls
There will be an adjustment period from the whole team as we learn how to convey authentic and sincere communication through digital means.
This can take time to get right, it can also require extra effort and seem uncomfortable. The alternative, however, is that we let the impersonal feeling continue and damage culture and relationships.
Proactive and consistent communication from the top-down drives the internal communication culture within an organisation. Communicating only to combat issues or address negativity can create a negative, uneasy feeling, especially whilst people are working from home and isolated from that usual office ‘vibe’.
For internal comms to flourish when the whole business is working remotely, the importance of regular, transparent and sincere communication should be embedded in company culture and demonstrated throughout the business.