By Paul Sleath, CEO at PEO Worldwide
The workplace — once composed of a physical office space where employees spent eight hours a day between 9 am and 5 pm — has been moving toward more flexible working solutions for some time now.
But 2020 saw work practices jolt forward with a bang, as businesses everywhere crashed into this new way of working.
Now, employees are working across multiple locations, hours and devices — meaning staff are often faced with communication challenges such as coordinating operations across time zones and overcoming information silos, language and cultural barriers.
Communication shouldn’t feel like a chore
How employees interact with each other to reach organisational goals is integral to business success and growth. So, with this new remote way of working, organisations need to introduce digital workplace strategies that encourage collaboration and communication, enabling employees to work together effectively regardless of location.
There are typically four different types of communication within a company: internal upward communication, internal downward communication, internal lateral communication and external communication.
Let’s focus on internal lateral communication here — which is likely to have been impacted most by the shift to remote working. Frequent communication between employees plays a crucial role in engagement and productivity. However, without sitting next to each other in a shared office, staying in touch can be a challenge and start to feel like a chore.
But proper internal business communications strategies that use modern tools to encourage employee engagement and collaboration eliminate these problems and make working remotely so much simpler.
We’re not talking about email here
Within most companies, email is used for practically all aspects of internal employee communication — from information requests to task assignments and document sharing. But only a small fraction of the emails that hit our inbox deserve our immediate attention. And many of the emails we receive aren’t relevant to us at all!
Too much irrelevant content often results in information silos, meaning the important stuff gets lost along the way. When employees spend too much time searching for this info, they then begin to suffer from information overload. Fortunately, there are many other communications tools employers can set up in today’s digital workplaces to help staff do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.
Real-time chat tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack mean team members can see when each other are online and communicate through email-style threaded conversations — either privately or in group chats — and store and edit documents in relevant groups. Unlike email, this form of communication is much more instant and allows people to ‘mention’ someone to draw their attention to a discussion.
Voice and video conferencing software like Zoom has also really taken off in the past year, allowing employees to schedule meetings, host live video conferences with colleagues or clients in other locations and even share their screen to make collaboration that bit easier.
With team collaboration platforms like Trello and Asana, staff can assign tasks and visualise workloads by using shared Kanban boards as interactive to-do lists, enabling better workflow management throughout the company and less unnecessary back-and-forth over email.