Workvivo’s Pete Rawlinson shares his advice for maintaining effective communication when working remotely.
Proper communication is crucial for any successful team at any given time, but when each member is suddenly based in a different location, it becomes even more critical.
To learn more about maintaining effective communication while working remotely, we spoke to Pete Rawlinson, chief marketing officer of Workvivo – the Cork-based software company that provides a platform for employee communication and engagement.
Should communication be a priority between managers and teams when working remotely?
Communication should always be a priority – especially between management and their teams – but for remote working, the need is magnified.
What tends to happen when people work remotely is that communication becomes a function of a particular need in time, rather than a more social interaction, as would happen in the workplace. It’s these random social interactions that knit together the fabric of company and workplace culture and keeps employees engaged with their company and their colleagues.
So, although you can help remote employees communicate, the quality and type of that communication becomes more important and apparent with a remote workforce. This quality tends to be overlooked by leadership, but as the workplace trend moves towards more remote working, the need to enable communication in a way that engages employees will become increasingly important and shouldn’t be overlooked.
What are some of your tips for maintaining good communication in this situation?
Try to augment one-to-one temporal communication – such as direct messaging – with group communication. Think about how employees would typically interact at the workplace and find ways to mimic this.
We see some of our customers hosting virtual coffee breaks, mini competitions during the day, creating interest groups and facilitating communication between people with similar interests.
It’s always important to recognise a job well done, but this is more important with remote workers. Go out of your way to publicly recognise remote employees. The aim is to make remote employees feel part of something bigger than themselves and to minimise feelings of disconnection and isolation.
Provide a window into other parts of the business that is easily accessible and always available. Finally, check in (not check up!) on remote employees often, making it informal and social.
Are there any major pitfalls to avoid?
As soon as a remote employee starts to feel disconnected and isolated, they’re on a slippery slope to disengagement. Don’t rely on traditional methods of communication to handle the engagement challenge.
Email, direct messaging and video conferencing can only take you so far. Look for ways to maintain a feeling of community in the minds of the remote employees. Don’t check in on these employees – that only exacerbates the feeling of isolation and adds stress to the situation, which is a fast track to a disengaged employee.
What can happen if communication isn’t made a priority?
Losing the focus on engaged communication will inevitably lead to a disengaged employee. This will affect the business in two ways. Firstly, you’ll have an employee that will be working at partial capacity and any chance of accessing creativity from that employee will be minimal.
Secondly, a disengaged employee will surely find ways – consciously or unconsciously – to let others know about it and effectively spread the negativity that fuels disengagement.
Are there any online tools or technologies that people can avail of to help them stay connected?
There is a difference between communication to transfer information and engaged communication. By providing a means to communicate via a social community, it is possible to achieve important information transfer and provide a ‘part of something bigger than me’ experience.
We have found that the combination of best-of-breed communication technologies, such as direct messaging with an employee social network (especially one that is also available to remote employees via a mobile app), keeps everyone in the loop and able to asynchronously interact with each other.
Capabilities such as personal activity feeds, posting, liking and sharing posts, shout-outs and collaboration spaces all provide the means by which remote employees can see what’s happening across the landscape of their company, hear from senior leadership and freely interact with colleagues around the world.
We have seen this elevate engagement in remote employees often to levels higher than their workplace-bound colleagues.