My first guest post of 2019 comes from copywriter, Holly Head, and gives some really helpful ideas for communicating with remote workers.
As someone who works from home full-time, this topic has some personal relevance for me. But I’m certainly not alone. Despite the recent focus on it, remote working, is not a new phenomenon. Community outreach workers, fundraisers and graduate recruitment officers are all examples of roles that have always required a substantial amount of non-office based work.
According to Hubspot (2018), the number of people who work remotely or telecommute has risen by 115% since 2005. Increasingly, employers are offering greater levels of flexibility and supporting employees to achieve a better work-life balance in an effort to garner a more engaged and productive workforce.
But are internal comms strategies being updated to reflect this move away from centralised, office-based workforces? If your internal comms plan doesn’t take remote workers into consideration, you may be failing to communicate effectively with a large proportion of your employees.
Who are your remote workers?
Understanding your audience is crucial for any effective piece of communication and there are definitely some issues that will be unique to your remote workers. Similarly there may be some issues that affect your office-based staff, that are irrelevant to your remote workers.
It’s important to tailor the internal comms your remote workers receive to their specific circumstances and issues. Here are a few things to consider:
Isolation; working remotely can mean staff miss out on the social benefits of working in an office with a group of colleagues. They may not feel like part of the team.
Out of the Loop; seemingly unimportant offline discussions that take place in office corridors and around the watercooler can have a big impact on the way in which a piece of work is carried out. Goalposts can shift and project frameworks or resources can change without remote workers being made aware in a timely fashion. This missed information can mean wasted time and effort.
Positive Feedback; you may need to be more proactive in your praise and recognition of remote workers to highlight, both to them and the wider team, the value they add and the contribution they make.
Sending out irrelevant content is a surefire way to alienate your remote workers. Here’s a slightly silly but not insignificant example.
It’s not uncommon for offices to indulge in something like a ‘Cake Friday’ or ‘Waffle Wednesday’. These kind of events are a great way to build strong bonds between staff members and are a chance for employers to give back to their staff. But sending out an internal email to ALL staff about the event, will only serve to remind your remote workers that they will not be participating. This can a) increase the sense of isolation that many remote workers report feeling and b) waste their time as they open and read an email that is completely irrelevant to them.
How to stay in touch
If your internal comms rely on a good data connection or can only be accessed via an intranet that requires multiple logins, your remote workers may struggle to access it or (perhaps more likely) be put off from even trying.
Consider the tools your remote workers are using and adapt your communications accordingly. While the vast majority of staff will have a laptop on which to do their work, it’s not always convenient or possible to find a wifi connection if they’re working out in the community. But most people nowadays have a smart phone on them at all times with a fairly stable data connection.
On this note, it’s vital to ensure that your remote workers have the tools and technology they need to access your communications (and to do their job). Nothing is more frustrating and disengaging than being unable to view content because your laptop was due an upgrade 5 years ago!
Include them in the conversation
Ensuring good communication between remote workers and their colleagues is important for staff morale. Instant messaging tools such as Slack or Yammer are a great way for remote workers to chat informally with colleagues, wherever they are in the world, making them feel part of the team.
Additionally there are a few practical things you can do to ensure remote workers don’t miss out on more work-critical discussions.
Like any piece of communication, effective internal comms for your remote workers requires an understanding of the audience, and the issues that affect them, clear, relevant messaging and a consideration of the best tools and channels to use.