It's no secret that the traditional concept of working out of an office is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Whether employees are working full-time or part-time from home or using collaborative spaces or shared desks on-site, the cubicle and private office model is going out the window.
As the old way sees itself out, we're still adjusting to the new format and learning how to get the most out of it.
Consider the new open-office layout. Bringing down all those cubicle walls and doors might be great for fostering collaboration, but there's still the occasional need for privacy when it comes to phone calls and meetings. As a result, many companies are now experimenting with having soundproof rooms and phone booths where employees can find the privacy they need for solo work or phone calls.
But the real challenges arise when you remove the office entirely, letting some or even all of your team go remote -- whether that just means working from home on Fridays or every single day.
There are many benefits to working remotely, but all that forward momentum will lurch to a halt if a company hasn't figured out how to streamline internal communications.
Getting the Word Out
A properly implemented remote work policy can completely transform a business. Productivity rises, stress drops, and the company can even save a few bucks in the process.
But it isn't difficult to see why remote work could pose communication issues.
First of all, it's a simple question of community. Working from home takes out the old-school "water cooler banter of a traditional office, making it all the more challenging to build a sense of camaraderie among co-workers."
When communication does occur, crossed wires and misconstrued meanings can be commonplace. Tone and intent are simply easier to convey in person, whether you're discussing, brainstorming, analyzing, or explaining. When communicating via phone or video, sometimes things are going to get lost in translation.
Research has shown that the potential success of remote work is largely dependent upon companies creating a structure to accommodate it -- one that addresses the needs of both the employee and the company. This is a major challenge as there is no rubber-stamp solution that will work for every employee, and striking that balance will change with each individual.
But if you can overcome these challenges and find consistent approaches to internal communication, the benefits are worth the effort.
The Benefits of a Uniform Approach
Just as remote work can transform a business, the right internal communication model can help both remote and in-office employees thrive.
For starters, a solid communication plan eliminates the needs for walkovers and in-person interruptions, keeping everyone focused on the tasks in front of them. It also helps create a more predictable work environment by removing some of the chaos from scheduling and routine. What's more, as the team becomes more accustomed to the new communication approach, business leaders can document the response to help the company learn and grow.
So how can leaders bolster their teams' communication efforts in a consistent fashion? Try a few of these strategies on for size:
1. Tame the social media beast. Most teams are already fluent in social media. Instead of squashing that opportunity by banning sites from the workplace, leverage it as a potential communication tool. Facebook’s new Workspace, for example, is a great way to foster work and a sense of camaraderie.
2. Make video meetings the norm. Regular video meetings not only give your team a chance to discuss a work goal, but they also help build connection by allowing for some off-topic chit-chat. Start each meeting by tackling at least one small company issue, then let conversation flow naturally.
3. Don't abandon face-to-face meetings. These meetings still have their time and place for addressing work issues and building a sense of team. Who doesn't want to get together for the occasional pizza lunch?
4. Teach employees how to write a proper email. Don’t assume that everyone knows the most effective use of email. Invest in training that teaches your team how to email with clarity and conciseness.
5. Use a productivity platform. There are a slew of great tools out there to help ease remote communication. Slack is a popular choice, but there are many options depending on your goals and needs.
The new models of remote and collaborative work offer a lot of great benefits
The benefits are only as good as the teams effective communication. By utilizing the available tech, connecting face to face when possible, and teaching team members how to make the most of the tools at their disposal, a business can run more smoothly and efficiently than ever before.