Over the past 5 years Flexible working has become increasingly popular, in terms of flexible hours and of where you choose to work (at home or at the office). Research has shown that 74% of respondents in the US believe that flexible work has become the new normal.
Given the recent times of the global pandemic 2020, many of us are now accustomed to the flexible structure of remote work. CEO at Goldman Sachs has even been quoted for saying remote work “will make us more comfortable in providing more flexibility to employees, which, by the way, makes this a more attractive place for people to work”. The outbreak of coronavirus has paved the way towards companies promoting remote work and offering more flexibility. What’s more, it is expected that the workplace will experience an even bigger increase in remote workers out of choice.
Reading an article in Forbes magazine one morning with the title: ‘How remote working is reshaping the future world of work?’, I began to think… as some companies begin to welcome their employees back to the office, how are we going to cope with the transition? The transition between those who decide to work remotely and those who choose to work at the office. Most importantly, how will this affect our ability to communicate between remote workers and office workers?
So… Here are 8 Steps to communicate efficiently in the “new world of work”:
Step 1: Start again with team building
Good communication starts by forming strong work relationship. Often the power of small talk is underestimated and seen to be a waste of time. Yet the truth is: the more you know about your team, the better you can communicate with them personally.
A good way to bring your team together is organising an afternoon of team building, it’s a chance to get to know each other outside the day-to-day work environment. If you are struggling for ideas for team building sessions, why not try a personality test workshop? To suggest a few, there’s the popular Myer-Brigg’s Type indicator or the Walter Clark’s DiSC test, which both identify your workplace personality. The ability to understand your teams “workplace personalities” is the key to knowing how to communicate with them.
Team building creates a new openness within your teams as work relationships become more transparent . Team building done well can be transformative to your business communication. It can open the door to adopting a more open and friendly communication style in the workplace.
Step 2: Embody the style of communication you want your team to imitate
As a project manager or team leader, it is down to you to set the path for your team to follow. Being able to effectively communicate is a sign of good leadership. However, to effectively communicate you need to plan.
The manager or leader should consider how, when and where to communicate. This means selecting a communication tool, setting a communication structure and scheduling time for interactions to take place. How the manager or leader decides to communicate will be reflected in the working style adopting by their teams.
So, it’s worth starting by putting everybody on the right communication path, by considering your own actions first and how they will inevitably impact your teams.
Step 3: Find a good communication tool
During the pandemic, many people have acquired new skills and one that stands out in business now is how to efficiently communicate online. We have got used to reaching out to our teams via emails, instant messaging channels and videoconferencing. There’s an extensive amount of communication tools available. It’s finding the right tool that can be tailored to your company communication needs and preferably finding one tool that does all.
There is a common misconception that communication takes up valuable project time. Yet, communication can be quick & easy with new alternatives to emailing such as instantaneous messaging channels which accommodate quick replies. If we were to take the example of Wimi, it offers instantaneous communication chatbots for all private, group and project interactions. You can organise your conversations on Wimi by selecting messages as favourites as a way to save messages for future reference. Wimi has integrated a videoconferencing function so that you can access all the communication tools you require on one platform.
New, sophisticated communication tools, like Wimi, have made it easier for teams to work from wherever suits them best.
Step 4: Adopt a communication structure
Teams should have the freedom to communicate naturally and spontaneously. Having said that, certain topics of discussion require a rough plan considering the communication purpose. For example, providing a debrief to your teams after an important project meeting requires a clear communication structure .
The essence of a simple debrief should include the meeting purpose, key decision points, steps taken and next steps. According to Harvard Business School, you should start a debrief by asking 3 essential questions. 1) What were we trying to accomplish? 2) What actually happened? And 3) How can we grow from this experience? This creates a three-layered structure, providing context to all the past, present and future.
Harvard Business School has it right when it comes to asking questions. To know whether you have communicated effectively, the message must be well-received. Hence, ending any type of communication with an open question is crucial for getting feedback. For instance: ‘What are your thoughts on this?’ or ‘Do you have any questions or comments?’.
Adopting a structure will encourage senders and recipients to take time to think about their communication style and consider the possible outcomes of their messages.
Step 5: Scheduling face-to-face communications
Let’s add another step to communication planning: scheduling face-to-face communications. Although, being able to spark a spontaneous conversation is a good sign of an environment that accommodates open communications. When you collaborate on projects both in and out of the office, scheduling time for face-to-face interactions is key (PS. This means hitting the enable camera button on all your videoconferences).
Adopting remote work, whether out of choice or not, has forced upon us videoconferencing. Although, at first the intimacy of your colleagues seeing into your own home may have seemed uncomfortable for some, Bryan Robinson has argued that it has brought about a new level of closeness. We have gained new insights into how our colleagues live meeting their pets, children, jazzy on-the-wall art choices and more .
Face-to-face interactions help add the personal element to a discussion. Naturally we react to communications using facial expressions, body language and small exclamations. These express how we feel and significantly impact how we choose to communicate. That’s why regular face-to-face communications are beneficial for adding new depth to the way we express ourselves and interact whilst working in or out of the office.
Step 6: Include everybody in decision-making
To ensure a good flow in communications, it’s important that everybody feels included in the project decision-making process. Every project participant should remain up to date with the latest project advancements and be able to play a part in key decisions.
Even the smallest decisions are worth communicating. Especially working from home, there is a bigger risk of feeling isolated from your collaborators in the key project events where decisions tend to be made. To not risk being left out, remote workers should make a conscious effort to reach out and communicate more than seen to be necessary.
Tip: Communicate anything and everything and most importantly to everyone!
Step 7: Make time for Q&A
It may seem obvious to some, but making time for Q&A is hugely important to optimize project success. Communicating without leaving opportunities for your teams to ask questions, could mean you miss out on a great idea or even worse overlook a big error. Teams should have the chance to question the status-quo, develop a bigger understanding and then give feedback.
If Q&A doesn’t come naturally to your teams, you can schedule Q&A sessions requesting team feedback. Q&A comes effortlessly when team members are approachable and eager to explore other viewpoints.
Tip: This is equally important to note down for your internal teams and not only for your clients!
Step 8: Listen and pay attention to the communicator
Communication between teams is a two-way street. So, to create an open communicative environment, the ability to listen and be patient when others speak should be priority number 1!
Nobody’s opinions or thoughts are irrelevant, any form of communication is a steppingstone in the right direction on your projects. Hence, taking the time to accept team communications, will lead to project success optimization.
Above all this concerns international work relations, where you must consider the different origins and varying primary languages in your teams. Language variants can become a barrier in terms of communications. So, taking the time to listen and understand is highly valued and appreciated. This may mean taking a step back from quick-fire communication for the benefit of creating an open work culture that encourages communications within different cultural environments.
The world of work we once knew is changing and progressing towards more flexible work structures that better accommodate remote workers. In times of change it’s important to revisit business project plans to assess their validity and relevance and adapt them accordingly.
One plan that needs to be revisited is the communication plan. Maintaining efficient communications is crucial in a progressively changing environment. Good communications lead to enhanced productivity, improved employee and client satisfaction and increases company profitability. These eight steps will lead you and your teams to stays on track, even during difficult transition periods such as what we are currently experiencing learning to adapt in the so-called ‘new world of work’.