When a major disruption hits your organization, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, everything changes overnight. Your entire business has to suddenly find a new way of operating. Some changes are simpler than others to figure out. For many companies, the idea of sending everyone to work from home is inconceivable.
IDI has allowed employees the option of working from home for years, and that experience helped us to prepare the entire company to work remotely. We also learned a lot when we went 100-percent remote.
One of the biggest keys to successfully doing business remotely is maintaining strong communication and culture among your leadership team, your departments, and individual employees.
Trying to get a handle on remote communication and culture for your business? Here are our top communication best practices to stay connected as an organization and stay productive.
Develop Policies for Remote Work
Before IDI transitioned to a fully remote model, we had already been set up to allow people to work from home. We had a tested policy in place to make sure our data was secure and our people had the tools they needed.
Part of that policy included requirements for supervisor permission, proper VPN setup, and proper access to specific tools within our environment. That was especially important for certain job roles and departments that deal with sensitive information.
When we transitioned the whole company to work from home, we didn't have to worry about our network security or cyberattacks.
Prepare Employees to Work Remotely
You will have some employees who are very comfortable working from home and can manage it just fine. Others are more comfortable in the office, such as with their two big screens, fewer distractions, and everything they need in the office.
Do your best to listen to concerns from employees and help them prepare for working remotely.
At IDI, extroverted employees were concerned about being cut off from others, because they thrive on social interaction. They love to come to the office, because they like to see faces, and they like the camaraderie.
Some were concerned about being distracted at home. How do you work when you have pets, children, and chores interrupting your work flow?
To prepare our people, managers helped employees to think through the logistics of working at home. Supervisors encouraged their direct reports to think about what they would need to get set up and to be productive, and they did their best to fulfill every reasonable request.
Diversify Your Communication Tools
Email may be the go-to communication tool for working remotely, but conversations back and forth can take time. Long email threads can quickly get confusing, too.
At IDI, we use email whenever it's practical, but we also leverage other communication tools to make sure people's communication needs are fully covered.
RingCentral Video is an instant messaging system that lets individuals chat one-on-one in real-time. Departments can use it to communicate to their whole group. It's a great way to get questions or issues taken care of right away. It also creates a sense of having a real conversation — which can be greatly needed when you're stuck home alone all day.
Video conferencing software like GoToMeeting and Zoom give you a more interactive experience. We use RingCentral to conduct our leadership team and departmental meetings online.
Keep a Tight Communication Loop
I can't state how important it is to keep everyone connected and informed when they're all working from home. Make sure there’s a tight communication loop with all employees that can be delivered remotely.
Every morning, IDI's leadership team huddles up online for a report out. Then, every evening, they check in again. After each huddle, our VP sends company-wide emails to let all our employees know about news and updates, any issues a department might be having.
Every manager keeps their fingers on the pulse of their department by checking in as often as needed. We've also started implementing virtual activities to foster company culture and bonding.
Overall, our transition to a fully remote organization was a smooth one, but there were a few bumps in the road.
The first day, we noticed a significant drag on the network, because everyone was connecting in. We had issues with conference lines and screen sharing, as well.
Our IT team has been diligently working to assess the needs of every employee and make sure everyone has the access and the tools they need to do their job. They've been incredible, and they deserve credit for the tremendous work they're doing to keep IDI productive during disruption.
The same is true for our customers and partners. If anything comes up, our support team is on it immediately. They're ready to troubleshoot and fix issues as soon as anything arises.
Act as a Team
Because of the load on our network, we've had to come together as a team and volunteer to make sacrifices. Department heads will ask, "Who can stay off of the VPN for a while, so that others can use it?"
As a result, we've learned to come together and work as a team at a whole new level. It has forced us to think about each other in a way that we've never had to before — to consider how to help others to get their jobs done.
Because most of our communication at IDI is now text-based, important cues are missing from our messages. When you can't hear tones of voice or see facial expressions, it's easy to misinterpret email and chat messages. As a result, we all need to be conscious of possible miscommunication.
There are other considerations to be aware of:
- On conference calls, people tend to accidentally interrupt each other more often
- Some people aren't natural communicators with the written word, and their emails may seem abrupt or curt.
- Proper punctuation makes a big difference. A little comma can be a big deal. All caps messages imply an emotion that might not be accurate.
Choosing your words carefully is of paramount importance when you're working remotely, and respectful language is just as important within the company as it is when interacting with partners and customers.
Transition with Confidence
Transitioning your entire company to working from home is a huge undertaking, but it will be much smoother when you plan wisely and communicate smartly.
As we move forward, you can trust that IDI will be there to help your team succeed in any way we can. We're your resource for reliable solutions that are backed by dependable support.