Communication for any company that utilizes remote workers is of the utmost importance.
In today’s article, I’m going to go over a number of communication methods that every business with remote workers should be utilizing. As well, how and why creating a communications plan for your company can send your productivity soaring.
Have a Company Communications Plan
Without a plan, how will remote workers know which way is the best way to update you on an essential project?
If you allow one remote worker to use Skype, and other uses Google Chat, can you assure yourself you’ll never get confused? One day, you will be searching Skype for messages from an employee regarding a project, but those messages will be found in Google Chat.
A plan defines how you and your company communicate different types of messages.
Have Water Cooler Chat Always On
The problem with remote workers and teams is that there is no water cooler experience. The proverbial water cooler that often marks a place where people gather and exchange tidbits about personal or work items is not present for remote workers. Remote workers don’t just bump into one another randomly.
Because of this, a group chat is needed as a place for water cooler conversation. It allows the remote worker to make a quick note to team members who aren’t sitting beside her or him.
The group chat allows a team member to quickly say “just spoke with Client A, we should talk about this later.”
The group chat always being on allows remote workers to compensate for time zone differences.
Obviously, your “water cooler” chat should be distinguished from your “project-oriented” chats. You don’t want essential chat space being convoluted with what might seem like trivial matters.
A water cooler chat is just that, it’s taking the place of a real water cooler but by way of online chat.
Determine Best Communication Practices
If you don’t, as an executive or manager, decide which means of communications should be used and for what type of issues, people will simply use whichever communication means they feel most comfortable using.
This can only end in confusion and lost messages.
As the manager, you need to convey if email, or Skype, or even Facebook messenger is the most appropriate means of essential communications. You might even opt for project management communications to be accomplished in Basecamp or some other project management software.
It really doesn’t matter what you decide, it just matters that you have decided on some organizational format.
You might make understood that project updates go through Basecamp, while messages about sick time or days off can go through email correspondence.
The important thing here is that you have a plan.
Let’s look at all the options you have to choose from. This is a good list to build a plan around. You can list the items out and decide which communications should go through which programs and then create a document that’s disseminated to each remote worker.
Video Chat – Video chat is one of the most powerful methods of communication we have today, particularly for companies which choose to hire remote workers, or need to communicate with clients and customers.
But at the same time, no one wants to be bothered with video chat request all day (or at least, you probably don’t).
That’s why making rules about which means of communication works for specific types of communications is essential in preventing such frustrations from happening is a best practice.
Not every day is a good hair day!
Project Management Software – If your company uses software such as Wrike or Basecamp, most likely, you want all project-oriented communications posted inside of these programs. But do you want project concepts here?
Maybe not. That’s for you to decide.
Email – Email is the most used form of communication in the world outside of a phone. Over the past decade, email communication providers have vastly improved the organizational structure of email software.
Most people opt to use email as a primary means of communication, but there are also companies who completely avoid email in lieu of a number of other communication methods that are more instantaneous.
Skype, Facebook Messenger, Google Chat – Instant messengers are as popular as ever. All the most popular ones are tied into smartphone technology making instant messengers accessible anywhere, any time.
But some companies also feel that the constant bouncing Skype application is annoying and reduces productivity.
They have a point.
With instant messengers, it is best to create clear rules of use that mesh with your company’s overall style and needs.
Conference Calls – Conference calls are the butt of many jokes these days. People often label them as a waste of time.
Like any means of communication, conference calls can waste the time of a meeting full of busy people.
But the company that uses the conference call has only itself to blame for terribly unproductive conference calls.
Conference calls remain a powerful way to discuss pertinent company issues with a group of relevant people. But that only works if the conference call organizer adheres to some basic rules.
Conference calls should have a clear purpose, defined talking points, and only include relevant persons.
Screen Sharing – Too many companies don’t realize the power of screen sharing when it comes to teaching new things are demonstrating technology. Often, people simply call other people and tell them verbally about how something works, or what its purpose might be.
Why not show them?
Screen sharing is available on Skype and Google Chat. It can really make teaching new things a breeze.
Having a communications plan written and disseminated to every worker, remote and non-remote, can send your productivity soaring. It can alleviate confusion in messages and lost or missed messages. It streamlines how and when employees communicate important items.
In making the plan, make sure you list out all the methods of communication available. This includes methods your company doesn’t intend to use.
Because a new remote worker may be used to using Facebook Messenger and when that’s not listed as a “no go way to communicate project updates,” that employee may find it OK to do so.
Be clear. Have a plan. Watch your productivity fly to the moon.