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Different Ways to Create a Communicative Remote Work Culture


Remote operations are becoming a more familiar aspect of our business landscape. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have forced many companies to unexpectedly adjust to this method, many more are discovering the economic and social benefits of working from home, period. One study even suggests that 16% of employees who have recently moved to remote practices will be expected to adopt them permanently.

However, that's not to say that remote working is without its challenges. For those who are used to the office environment, moving from close contact with colleagues and customers to isolation can be particularly jarring. To help ensure that remote operations run smoothly and that both staff and customers continue to have a satisfactory experience, there needs to be a culture of communication.

This is all well and good to say, but knowing how to do this can be another matter. Improving your company's culture of communication can make you feel lost, but it's vital to keep an open mind to a variety of different strategies and tools that might be available to you.


Make it Easy

Probably the most important thing you can do to both create and encourage a culture of communication is to make it simple for everyone involved. Neither customers nor staff will be inclined to use your communications platforms or adhere to policies if they have to jump through multiple hoops to do so. Therefore, when designing your overall remote communications plan (and, yes, you should be making a plan!), you have to consider how you can reduce physical and mental barriers to communicating.

Consideration of communications platforms here is important. Telemedicine has been instrumental in leading the way in this regard as of late. Particularly during our current pandemic, it has been important for medical staff and patients to communicate simply and at a distance, whether it be for general care or vision care. As such, many medical practices have adopted single platforms that encompass appointment scheduling, video conferencing with patients and multiple professionals, even the uploading and sharing of medical documents via secure servers. Businesses should seek to take a similar approach by creating all-in-one communications solutions for remote workers. Many, including Slack and Microsoft Teams, for example, incorporate video meetings, instant messaging, as well as integration with project management tools.

You should also be striving to make communications easy from a psychological perspective, alongside the technical. Take time to ask where the reluctance comes from. Listen with empathy, and find out what the pain points are. Make adjustments to your policies that better meet their needs, and encourage them to engage.


Formalize Protocols

One of the enduring issues with remote working is that it makes teams disparate. This means we often need to work a little harder to keep things cohesive and organized. This goes for communications, too. When there is an absence of convenient conversations and easy exchanges that are taken as accepted norms in offices, it can be important to formalize how and when communication should occur. You don't need to make it too rigid, and certainly shouldn't be using it as a form of micromanaging. Treat it as a clear framework, but with room for everybody to maneuver.

Some approaches here should include:

  • Regular Scheduling

Keep a calendar for official communications. Vary these in frequency and type; daily text check-ins, weekly one-to-one calls, a full team video meeting every couple of weeks. This not only sets expectations for communications, but it also highlights a support structure.

  • Channel Allocation

Once you've chosen a communications platform, set up channels with dedicated purposes. Make sure all employees have access to relevant channels, and clearly label each with its purpose. Clarify that all messages relating to a specific project are undertaken in its relevant channel. Make sure you also set up channels for general company information and casual chatting. Leadership should be visible in using all of these correctly and regularly and influence others to follow suit.

  • Training Manuals.

While your employees are intelligent and capable, it is a mistake to simply assume that they can — or even want to — adjust to remote communications without some guidance. Create training manuals, or a series of simple videos, taking them through the tools they'll be using for communication. Use commentary from the managers they'll be working with, talking about how leadership uses the platforms, and some personal hints and tips.

It should always be made clear to employees that these protocols shouldn't be the extent of their communication. Rather, they should treat them as a jumping-off point for developing good habits.


Encourage Connections and Collaboration

Isolation and good communication are not the best of bedfellows. Which is why, when creating your remote communications culture, you need to emphasize the importance of everyone's involvement with each other's work. Don't be too invasive about this — one of the reasons remote working can breed productivity is that it gives employees additional flexibility. However, part of your approach should be to create forums that help maintain team morale and enable connections to occur.

Projects can be useful in this regard. Make it a point of protocol that when employees come across problems, there is an open call for assistance on the team messaging platform. This goes for members of leadership, as well as general staff. This openness helps staff members to feel less on their own at times of difficulty, and also fosters a more horizontal organizational structure. When everybody's opinion is solicited and valued, they may be more likely to contribute and collaborate.

One of the things we've learned over the past decade of remote working is that it has positive effects on access to work. This is particularly true for people experiencing disabilities that affect mobility. However, this has also shown us that there can be a tendency for exclusion from traditional office socializing; which is key to maintaining a communicative culture. Set up regular team meetings for fun activities. Play a video game together, watch a movie or TV show, arrange for treats to be delivered, and just hang out together for an hour. Making these casual connections helps to forge bonds that make communication easier and more pleasant.


Conclusion

Without a communicative work culture, remote operations can quickly get out of hand. There is no single correct approach for every company, but there are some common actions that can help. Keep things simple, make clarity a priority, and don't forget to foster closer connections amongst your team. 


Image Source: Pexels

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