The guidelines for remote working communication
Modern business means modern working practices. Just under 15% of the UK workforce — 4.2 million people — now work from their homes, cafes or shared remote workspaces. Remote working promotes creativity and flexibility. It rewards employees with the freedom to work in the environment that suits them best, while generating more productivity in the workplace. But what is the key to success? The Big C: remote working communication.
Why choose remote working?
With the availability of stable, secure digital platforms and lightning-fast network connectivity, there is little reason for everyone to work together in one place, every day. Remote working is a popular means to give flexibility to your workforce, making them feel valued and energised. The freedom to work remotely reduces the pressure of commuting, giving more time to work, and less to travel. What’s more, it helps companies choose from a global workforce, sourcing the best people for the job without the hefty financial burden of having to relocate staff.
Historically, traditional businesses were against remote workspaces or flexible working cultures. Some argued that communication would suffer, staff would be unavailable at key hours in the working day, or they would feel isolated and disconnected from the business. Others raise security concerns or a fundamental lack of trust in their employees, which begs the question: why employ staff you don’t trust in the first place?
“Being remote actually allows you to practice intentional and thoughtful communication far more. Own this skill and let it be a second nature to you.”
Liz van Dijl, VP of Business Services at Percona
The likes of Microsoft, Google and other forward-thinking technology companies saw the early benefits of remote workspaces. Such businesses are generally appealing to work for and have opened our eyes to attracting and retaining the best employees in the marketplace. Improved digital communication and technology financing, however, have made more traditional companies such as banks, law firms and accountants weigh up the advantages of a remote workforce.
So how do these companies ensure their staff remain energised and informed while working from flexible locations? Below are seven guiding principles to successful remote working communication:
1. Harness technology
Email is gradually being phased out of business operations, considered unwieldy, unreliable and inconsistent. Businesses are turning to flexible programmes, apps and platforms for project management and communication.
The principal rule here is continuity. Choose one platform that meets your end-to-end business requirements, and stick to it. Otherwise, your staff will be trying to communicate on so many channels for different functions, they will communicate with nothing but their computer.
The vast range of platforms for project sharing and messaging includes Slack, Twist, Hipchat, Google Hangouts and LiveChat. Slack is most popular with more than 1.5 million paying users, while is Twist is marginally easier to use and is moving fast up the user ranks.
2. Prioritise file sharing
After choosing a technologically-advanced platform for managing projects, progress and communication, the next priority is a transparent file sharing method.
Ensure shared documents are accessible to all stakeholders, and can be updated in an open platform. The choice is yours from Google Drive, Dropbox, Easyfile and iCloud. Again, consistency is the key. Adopt one file sharing method for everyone and stick to it.
3. Set clear objectives
As a remote worker or a business employing staff in different locations, knowing what is expected from start to finish is essential to successful remote working communication.
Tasks and objectives should be clearly defined, and set around completion dates and output rather than timeframes and hours spent.
4. Choose a time zone
If you’re an international business or global employer, it is advisable to choose a standard business timezone to work from. This is not from a physical perspective — it is impossible for all staff to work in one time zone — but a business standard for communication continuity.
Take this time zone into account when scheduling remote meetings so workers clearly understand the appropriate time for their location.
5. Separate work and rest time
Contrary to popular belief, remote workers spend more hours working, not less. Setting clear boundaries for work and pleasure helps alleviate stress and burnout. Also, don’t forget there are times when a good old chat on the phone is the quickest way to communicate and solve issues.
6. Add face-to-face communication
Arranging meetings through Skype or a similar system adds all-important body language to a business conversation, increasing transparency and human engagement. If possible, regular physical meet ups will give your day-to-day digital communication a personal twist and allow teams to work more closely while operating remotely.
7. Have a weekly web meeting
TED Talks, the media organisation known for spreading knowledge through online talks, leads the way with its remote working communication practices. Employees have a standard web meeting every week with their co-workers. The meeting is consistently the same time, on the same day to discuss everything from business progress and projects to birthdays, holidays and social matters. They focus on keeping their interactions light hearted with themes, disguises or costumes, fostering closer team building and more open communication.
Overall, the benefits of a remote workspace and a flexible workforce are numerous — happy, valued staff, greater business output, and better heads for the job. The key to making it successful, however, is smooth remote working communication, promoting more productivity in the workplace.