We are living in unprecedented times. COVID-19 has made life as we know it come to a grinding halt. Social distancing has paved the way for companies with old and outdated communication methods to upgrade and get innovative with cyber communication.
What was once a trend only afforded to a few working individuals is now everyone's reality. A quick transition to working from home can be extremely daunting. Working from home raises several communication and cybersecurity concerns that both employers and employees are ill-equipped to deal with. Here, we detail some communication pain points as a result of the necessity to work from home, as well as how to overcome them:
The sudden adaptation to a remote working environment that involves virtual communication can cause anxiety amongst employees. Thus, it is up to senior leaders to be at the forefront of embracing and collaborating the transition to a virtual work environment, as explained in this article by the World Economic Forum. After all, it is during uncertain times like these we look to our leaders for inspiration.
Remote working creates a sense of distance amongst employers and employees alike. Video calls and conferencing is a simple and effective way of breaking down barriers, creating a more interconnected experience for employees and promoting internal communications. At the same time, it is worth noting that virtual connections often have gaps, especially in terms of communication cues in the form of body language and behavior. This is something all employers and employees must be aware of as they transition to working remotely. Today, there are many different platforms available for companies to make use of to overcome these obstacles. USC Annenberg also lists out various communication apps available to help a business transition to online communication.
When transitioning to a remote work environment, it's worth keeping in mind these general guidelines to maximize efficiency:
In today's world, it is so easy to stay connected and continuously be connected. Where does one draw the line on expectations of employees' availability? Employers need to set boundaries in terms of manageable workloads, online hours, and acceptable levels of communication. Doing so reduces the need to continuously check up on remote workers and makes them feel trusted, in turn, boosting productivity. Thus, establishing clear communication expectations will not only lessen the load on managers but also grant autonomy to employees to manage their own time, deadlines, and goals.
An article on Entrepreneur further suggests adopting a common language for all remote communication needs. This is especially important for companies that operate in different languages and employ multilingual employees. Choosing and sticking to one language for online communication can help reduce misunderstandings. Employers should also provide assistance to those employees who struggle with the chosen primary language, so as to smoothen any communication obstacles along the way. As stated in the article, "Regardless of the language the company chooses to use primarily, everyone on the team must understand each other." Going one step further, it is also worth considering creating company-specific communications norms as part of the communications policies. This may include developing acronyms, a standardized writing style, and a standard response time for employees. Creating a set of structural guidelines is beneficial in that it will ensure consistent etiquette through virtual communication.
While office-based work favors extroverts, non-verbal forms of communication like text and web-based interactions tend to favor introverted individuals. Use the transition to remote working as an opportunity to give lesser-heard employees a voice. Virtual interfaces may well be the perfect platform for a shy or introverted colleague to speak out about an idea.
With this in mind, employers should encourage discussion and feedback at both the employee-to-employer level as well as amongst employees themselves. Discussing ideas and creating a safe online space to ask questions may lead to new business discoveries, and will reduce the chance of error in projects over the long term.
Someone's birthday? Would they usually get a cake and a celebration at work? It is essential to keep these traditions up even through remote working landscapes. These gestures help boost employee morale, particularly in uncertain times. An article on Silicon Republic discusses the value of keeping traditions and recognizing jobs well done, especially for remote teams. As stated in the article, "Go out of your way to publicly recognize remote employees. The aim is to make remote employees feel part of something bigger than themselves and to minimize feelings of disconnection and isolation."
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a myriad of obstacles and roadblocks for many businesses, both small and large. With a transition to remote working, comes a reliance on technology; and with that, a new set of risks for cyber-attacks. Now more than ever, cybersecurity is fundamental for businesses' and employees' safety while working online. The last thing businesses need right now is to be hacked! Useful cybersecurity tips for small businesses that now find themselves operating online include maintaining robust antivirus software, limiting access to servers, and using multi-factor authentication to access company information.
Businesses need to share cybersecurity tips with employees working remotely. Training employees on cyber safety (or even asking them to participate in an online cybersecurity seminar) will help protect assets against hacking, phishing, and social engineering tactics. The current environment makes for a prime opportunity for hackers to target employees, which could lead to a major loss of business and client information. Thus, all remote working employees must implement cybersecurity measures at all times.
While the transition to a remote working environment may be a challenge, businesses are being forced to invest in and create more flexible collaborative and inclusive workspaces. Even though the circumstances are far from ideal, these innovations will serve enterprises for many years to come, long after the COVID-19 pandemic.