With remote work becoming the new norm, IC and HR experts have to find new ways to help employees stay productive and work towards the same business goals.
Working from home is not unusual anymore. It has even become the norm in the past few weeks. Indeed, millions of employees around the world were asked to work remotely to protect themselves from the pandemic.
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While around 50% of the US population used to work remotely on a regular or occasional basis before the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of employees working from home has drastically increased right after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced last March that the coronavirus reached the "pandemic" status.
The Global Work-From-Home Experiment
As the pandemic was spreading at a fast pace, companies had no choice but to adjust their work arrangements.
Some businesses have moved to 100% remote work in less than 48 hours. And communications teams were urged to find the right strategy to keep the business running smoothly despite the pandemic.
The thing is, the challenge was high, very high. Indeed, only 47% of employers surveyed by Deloitte said that they had the capabilities or processes they would need to meet a crisis with the best possible outcome.
While some companies were used to remote work before the outbreak, it was a completely new way of working for others. And those companies that were not used to remote work were not ready to successfully change their work arrangements right away.
That's the reason why business experts and analysts payed great attention to the way companies — from startups to enterprise businesses— were adjusting their internal processes and employee comms strategies.
Indeed, experts and analysts saw the pandemic as the world's largest work-from-home experiment.
Think about it: the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the global economy, and while some businesses saw it as a crisis they couldn't survive, others saw it as an opportunity for companies to experiment, rethink and improve their remote work arrangements.
It's still too early to say to what extend the coronavirus outbreak will change the internal communication landscape. But what's for sure is that companies are taking their internal comms strategies to a completely new level, especially because of the urgent need for remote work.
"The virus could act as a game-changer for remote work,” says Prithwiraj Choudhury, a professor at Harvard Business School.
"The coronavirus could be the catalyst that gets firms to adopt remote work policies in far greater numbers than we see now, even after the pandemic ends. This is an opportunity to essentially restructure organizations" adds Choudhury.
From a Global Experiment to a New Norm
While startups used to make up the majority of the companies offering remote work arrangements before the outbreak, agile enterprises with thousands of employees have started following the trend to protect their employees from the global coronavirus pandemic.
Some of the largest companies—including Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Hitachi, Apple, Amazon, Chevron, Ford, Salesforce and Spotify—have even rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies to lower the impact of the virus. In the U.S., the percentage of remote workers jumped from in just three weeks (Gallup).
But the thing is, remote work is here to stay.
While business analysts and experts saw the sudden shift to remote work as a global experiment at first, they agree that working from home is now the new norm. We're even talking about a "work-from-home revolution".
While some CEOs have announced that they will let their employees work remotely for several years — Zuckerberg announced that half of the employees are expected to work from home over the next five to ten years —, others go the extra mile as they are planning to let a part of their workforce work from home permanently.
For example, Jack Dorsey, the CEO of both Twitter and Square, informed his employees at both companies that they can continue working from home “forever.” Overall, 74% of the companies surveyed by Gallup are planning plan to permanently shift to more remote work post-COVID-19.
Remote Work and Productivity
Now, the question is: does remote work impact your employees' productivity?
This is a concern most business leaders have in mind right now. Indeed, not all employees necessarily have a good Internet connexion at home. Maybe not all tasks can be done remotely.
And what about employees who are working form home with young kids, do they have all the support they need to be successful in their jobs?
The thing is, employees' productivity has a direct impact on the company's success.
An interesting survey run in the UK by Statistica found that believed they were more efficient when working from home, believed they worked more hours at home during the outbreak, and said that working from home may have intruded on their personal life.
According to another survey, 22% of firms claimed that the COVID-19 disruption had no impact or a positive impact on employee productivity while only 15% said that it had a negative effect on their employees' productivity. Overall, 52% of managers are planning to allow their employees to work remotely more often as a result of the two-month work from home experience (Gallup).
However, remote work isn't just a different way to work – it's a different way to live. According to Buffer, this isand 22% of remote employees that they struggle to unplug after work.
The stats above show that working from home does impact employees' wellbeing and productivity, either on a positive or negative way.
So, how do you help your employees stay productive while working from home?
Your Internal Communication Is Key to Keeping Your Remote Teams Productive
Your internal communication is the glue that holds your business together and it plays an even more important role during the coronavirus outbreak.
The thing is, it's not only some of your employees but your entire workforce that is now working from home. That means that you need to implement a completely new way of communicating with your employees.
Indeed, remote work requires a completely different mindset than working in an office and some employees may struggle with this change. In fact, 20% of remote employees say that they lack a sense of belonging and sometimes feel lonely and disconnected when they're working from home under normal circumstances.
The thing is, while remote workers used to work from home one or two days a week on average, they are now working from home more often. That means that you have to completely rethink the way you're communicating and engaging with them.
That's where your internal communication comes to place.
Think about it: when your employees are in the office, they engage on a daily basis and feel truly connected. This could take the form of a water-cooler conversation, lunch with a coworker, or even visually observing meetings taking place.
Because remote work became the new norm, these types of conversations are getting less frequent, and as a result, remote workers can frequently feel disconnected.
What's more, your employees may feel worried and a bit lost since they're drastically changing their ways of working.
Check out in the infographic below the role your internal communication plays in supporting your employees' productivity 👇
10 Tips to Keep Your Teams Productive While Working From Home
As remote work is here to stay, we share our top communication tips to help you keep your employees productive while working from home:
1. Know your employees and the topics they are interested in
Did you know that 62% of the emails your employees receive are not important?
Yes, that's right, 62%.
Your employees may feel stressed and overwhelmed with that much information. As a result, they may just end up ignoring your messages, including the most important ones!
To catch your employees' attention, you need to share with them the right information — the information they need, nothing more, nothing else.
Keep in mind that catching your employees' attention can be even more challenging when they are working from home. That's why you'll need to have a deep understanding of your employees and their needs.
Since your teams are getting more and more dispersed, you'll need to segment your internal audiences the same way a marketing or communication team would target their audiences when launching a communication or marketing campaign. Only then you'll be able to share with with your employees the content and materials that are relevant to their roles within the organization, the language(s) they speak, and the topics they are interested in.
2. Create the right type of content
The one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work in communications. Sending out generic newsletter emails every month to your remote teams won't help you engage with them and support their productivity!
The golden rule here is to adapt the content you create to your internal audiences. Keep in mind that not all your employees have the same preferences when it comes to content. Some of them may prefer to read posts while others may enjoy watching short videos or listening to podcasts or reading posts.
Ask your employees what content format they prefer to consume. By creating the right content, you'll make sure that they'll consume the information they need to do their jobs.
3. Use the right communication channels
Because your workforce is getting more and more dispersed, you may be tempted to use one communication channel to make things easier for your employees. But that won't work.
Besides communicating with a dispersed workforce, you're also dealing with a multi-generational workforce.
Some of your employees may feel more comfortable using the company Intranet to find the information they need while others may prefer to use an app and that's alright. Let your employees use the communication channels that are right for them.
4. Make sure you can reach all your employees
One of the best ways to ensure that your employees get the materials they need in a timely manner is to make your internal communication mobile-friendly.
For example, it may be difficult for your sales team to keep up with all the new sales presentations you've prepared, the templates they can use or the sales updates you share with the team. But you can make their life easier by sending them a push notification whenever you have new materials ready for them.
The key here is to make it as easy as possible for your employees to get the information they need so they can be successful in their job.
5. Personalize your messages
Not all your employees need to receive the same information. As mentioned earlier, most of them are dealing with too much and/or irrelevant information.
If you want to help your employees be successful in their job, make sure they focus on the information that are essential to them. Don't get them distracted by irrelevant information.
If you don't personalize your messages, your employees will have no choice but to go through all the information and materials you share with them to pick the ones that seem to be the ones they need.
You have here two issues:
1. Your employees are loosing a lot of time dealing with the information you share with them. What's more, they are loosing time searching the materials they need, which has a direct impact on their productivity.
2. You let them guess what information to pay attention to.
Identify your internal audiences and segment your content accordingly. This is the only way you can support your employees' productivity while working from home.
6. Give your employees a say
Even though remote work has many benefits, it can be challenging as well. When your employees are working remotely, they may feel lonely and disconnected. Some of them may also experience a lower work-life balance.
The way you communicate with your remote employees has a direct impact on their wellbeing, morale and to some extend motivation.
It goes without saying that when your employees feel less motivated, their productivity goes down. That's why it's essential to check-in regularly with them and collect their feedback.
7. Connect your remote employees with your non-remote employees
Employees tend to be more productive when they feel connected with the rest of the team: The McKinsey Global Institute found that productivity can increase by in companies where employees are connected.
The thing is, when not all your employees are working in the same office, it becomes extremely challenging for them to make personal connections. They don't have lunch together or the water cooler talks near by the coffee machine either. But that doesn't mean they can't feel connected because they are working from home!
All you need to do at this stage is creating a virtual space where your employees can share insights, best practices, business trends they find interesting, or fun facts! Make sure that your employee communications app allows them to share content and have this type of conversations.
8. Recognize accomplishments
To go the extra mile, your employees need to feel supported. They need to feel that their efforts and accomplishments are acknowledged by the rest of the company.
When your employees feel that their work is recognized, they motivation and productivity go up. Make sure you share team and personal accomplishment with the rest of the company. To do so, you can for example have a dedicated channel "Accomplishments" on your employee communications app where all team leaders share employees' outstanding performance. Remember, employees' motivation has a direct impact on their engagement and productivity.
9. Measure the effectiveness of your internal communication
10. Align your internal and external communications
Because of the coronavirus outbreak, companies had no choice but to rethink their internal communications. IC teams were required to be more agile and proactive than before. They've clearly become the most important strategic business partners that can ensure that businesses are running smoothly despite the pandemic.
One of their top missions was to craft in no time a new internal communication strategy that supports employees' productivity, team collaboration, and the business's success during the coronavirus outbreak.
Redefining your internal communication in such a short period of time — remember, some businesses have moved to 100% remote work in less than 48 hours — doesn't come easy.
But keep in mind that to make remote working work for your employees, you need to make sure you can reach them in no time and share with them the information they need right away. They can't afford to spend 2.5 hours a day looking for the information they need, as they usually do under normal circumstances.
As mentioned earlier, it's still too early to tell to what extend the coronavirus outbreak is going to change/affect the internal communication landscape so make sure you stay on top of your game.