As they figure out methods of working from home, while managing dual roles of household chores and official work,  technology is providing the much needed ability to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues and keeping life normal to the best possible extent.

During such  a crisis it is essential for every organisation and their leaders to put forth messages in a clear, unambiguous and empathetic manner. A tone of urgency helps people to make quick decisions in order to mitigate harm, whereas transparency builds trust in the leader and the organisation and conveys respect for employees. Displaying empathy fosters resilience that obstacles can be overcome in future too.

Why Communication Is The Key?

One of the biggest challenges emerging during the current remote working setups is communication. If unchecked, this can lead to disengaged employees. Such employees tend to find conscious and unconscious ways of spreading the negativity around which does no good to his fellow workers or the organisation.

Encouraging Communication With Employees

Undoubtedly stress is the main culprit in current work from home scenario. It takes concerted effort to ensure well being of employees under such stressful circumstances. Two factors are most important in this regard:

  • Setting up guidelines to ensure work happens seamlessly in such times keeping in mind the possible adversities that could surface.
  • Repeating and reiterating so that employees stay calm and know that they have the information that will help them tide over these stressful times.

Addressing the well being of employees goes a long way in building brand(organisation) leadership. This done, each employee will turn into a brand ambassador, attracting good candidates and business for the company.  Some pointers for encouraging communication with employees will be as follows:

  • Be alert to changes in staff behavior
  • Ensure employees feel comfortable about contacting HR managers for clarifications/concerns. Read here about the evolving role of HR during this crisis
  • Encourage people to take regular breaks, incorporate exercise schedules and get some fresh air as permitted by the local Government guidelines
  • Tell employees to log out physically and mentally at the end of the day in order that they do not feel overwhelmed
  • Create a forum for teams to share ideas which will boost the morale of the team members

Communication Challenges

Although digital platforms help us to stay connected they also come with their challenges. Virtual communication can cause confusion mainly in the way of frozen screens which can impact what is being said, background noises, echoing voices, people unable to dial into meetings and so on. Hence it would be important to set clear and measurable objectives from the onset.

4 Ways To Encourage Workplace Communication

Communication in remote teams cannot happen as easily as in a conventional office setting. Heightened communication is necessary not only to keep remote teams focused but also because the move from an office to a home setting can take an emotional toll on people when they no longer have the social contact with work friends and colleagues. Virtual team meetings as well with individual members need to be on the priority list of all managers.

The following few steps will emphasize the need for communication and how to go about it:

1. Holding An Initiation Meeting

This kind of meeting will serve as a reset meeting to identify how best to work together in the new setup. The meeting will help the team to maintain a sense of community, help each other with the transition and improve team performance. This is a very crucial meeting that will set the pace for things to come and the way forward. A list of things to be covered in this meeting would be:

  • Establish a sense of community
  • Explore the challenges being faced by the work at home experience and the ways to overcome them
  • Clarify expectations towards work flow, performance management and performance
  • Develop team norms. This will form the skeletal network for the working of the team.

2. Establish Regular Morning Team Check-Ins

This kind of daily check-ins helps the team and the manager immensely to stay on top of the priorities for the day. COVID-19 has scattered the workforce and given them a sense of disconnect.  Therefore the daily check-in ritual serves to keep up the team spirit, checks if everyone is on the same page and most importantly helps to stay focused on key priorities for the day.  Above all it is important to inject humour into these daily meetings in order to raise the positive energy.

3. Take Virtual Coffee Breaks

Virtual coffee breaks can be as simple as inviting someone for coffee at office. This can be done as a one on one exercise or as a team activity too. This leads to putting the team at ease that some things can still continue albeit virtually. These breaks serve to make team members comfortable and want to discuss issues if any or touch upon ground rules informally. 

4. Making Communication Personal

Emails can be limited to official and mandatory official communication. For all other communication methods such as using Zoom, Skype, Microsoft teams or even picking up the phone to make that call will give a feeling of inclusiveness. While most team meetings are work related, the one on one meetings could be used to discuss any specific concerns an employee has, performance review and even to share their anxieties about job retention, impact of working from home, emotional upheavals and so on.

Remote working has come to the rescue in times of this global crisis.  How the work landscape will change thereafter is yet to be seen but remote working will sustain in the future too. It would therefore be the smart way forward to accept that this culture is here to stay and address one of the biggest concerns which is communication. The only way of overcoming this barrier would be to encourage employee questions, maintaining open lines of communication and implementing best communication practices.