Tech companies can’t escape it. Remote working is a must to keep employees happy, bring flexibility into the work floor and bridge the gap between work-life balance. At the same time, it presents a challenge to Internal Communications. Here’s the four things you need to keep in mind if your company has a lot of remote workers:
1: It’s a two-way street
“I always thought ‘Remote Working’ was a strange subject. People tend to overcomplicate it, especially in countries where there is strong legislation around the topic. In some places you have to come up with a full health-and-safety-proof workspace – including a governance process to review. This can be mission impossible for employees that work from home. In practice it’s less complicated if you just come to a clear understanding between the employee and the manager about the expectations. Both need to realize that it’s a different way of working, which in turn demands a different approach. If you get the scoop on the latest company developments by hanging around the coffee machine, then how will you get that coffee machine to the remote worker? That’s a challenge to be aware of.”
“The company and the employee will need to make an extra step to ensure everybody stays connected and informed. If both the employee and manager are willing to take that extra step it’s relatively easy to organize and find a new way of working together. Working remotely could offer an alternative way to connect people to your organization – for example if their personal situation changes. An added bonus: you’ll be more attractive to potential new employees that wouldn’t apply if the job offers less flexibility.”
Paul Knappe, Head of Human Resources at Randstad Sourceright EMEA
Paul says it well: flexibility goes both ways. Employees and line managers need to be made aware that with its advantages, remote working brings some challenges too. Internal Comms can play a beautiful role in coaching on effective digital communications.
2: Cutting through the noise is more of a challenge
“My company is based in London, but we work with people from all over the world and not always in offices. With remote communication, I’ve noticed it’s more difficult to cut through the noise. There are a lot of digital channels, and their purpose can get confused. At the same time, you can’t just walk over to someone’s desk and force a conversation onto them.”
Christopher, an Internal Communications specialist at a Security company in London
Christopher, whose company we cannot name for security reasons, has a practical viewpoint. Cutting through the noise doesn’t always need to be done through interruption, but in channeled communication, one channel should be king. Be clear about which channels are used for what type of communication, and set clear expectations on when these are checked for updates.
3: Bridge the gap
“With remote working, the toolset is a make-or-break. We are so used to email and chat that we don't ask ourselves if it’s the best way of working, when actually both of these slow our communication down. We get so many external emails that we ignore the internal ones with ease – especially in large organizations. Email has layout problems – everyone knows, expects, and is bored by the form. It also takes longer to write an answer, wait for a reply, forward it to someone to involve them and so on. This makes for bad remote communications. Chat is good for quick messages, but easily it steals our time while the conversation digresses. The result? More ignored communication. Remote workers need a place for information, one where they have the time to reflect on what they see but at the same time can really converse around it. Lastly, companies need to focus on bridging the gap that all these individual SaaS tools create. That will increase the ROI of remote working.”
Perttu Ojansuu, CEO of Happeo
Perttu’s point is not debatable. We all know how bad email is for conversation. At the same time, direct messaging tools – while fun – cause communication overload. Employees don’t get the time to really reflect on messages, rather they just react. But then an important point comes forth: individual tools create information silos. Take an integrated approach to communications platforms – make sure that nothing is missed and employees can choose where the conversation takes place.
4: Employees know best
“It’s one of the ways we show that we trust our people. We’re almost all millennials here, we don’t differentiate ‘work’ from ‘private life’ as much as the last generation(s) did. It’s a core part of our identity, no longer a necessary evil. Why then would we need to force people to come to our office if they feel they could be more productive at home? Employees know best what they need to perform well – if working remotely is part of that, then we’ll try to support it with data to prove that it works.”
To end this article, Ruben’s vision on remote working is something we should all keep in mind. Employees know what’s best for themselves. Companies should trust them to tell them, and challenge them to prove it.
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