In today’s business world, you never really know where your employees are working. Years ago, I started working for a software company after four years at a traditional health care company. When I was given my laptop and instructions on how to log in virtually, I thought, “This is great! I can work from anywhere!” Flash forward a few months, and my tone changed a bit. “Great…now I’m expected to work from anywhere at any time.”
But eventually, I got used to it – and I started to see the benefits of access from anywhere at any time. As an internal communications team member, I experienced first-hand the challenges of the virtual workplace. Working from a distance, adjusting for time zones, having team members scattered around the world – these were all factors that made communications difficult, if not impossible at times.
Communication between colleagues happens primarily via email and conference call. Face-to-face team meetings are quickly becoming a rare occurrence. Because of this lack of personal interaction, messages can be misunderstood, projects can be delayed, and your inbox explodes.
There are ways to manage these issues, but it takes planning, scheduling and sometimes, restraint. Schedule team meetings on a regular basis, and whether by conference call or conference room, be sure to solicit feedback from everyone on the team. Think about the content of your message – sure, an email may be the fastest route to blast information to everyone, but is it the most effective? Is there an employee portal that can be used for regular updates and non-urgent messages? Can that same portal track project status and allow team members to access information, rather than getting 20 emails about the project?
For critical issues, don’t rely on email as your main form of communication. Whenever possible, set up a face to face meeting, or use your company’s virtual technology (like Skype, WebEx or alike), or pick up the phone. The most powerful communication (read: connection) you can make is with your voice, so use it.
The communications challenges of the business world are not going to change. There will always be time zone differences, there will always be someone traveling, there will be language barriers…and there will be email. Lots and lots of email. It’s up to the communications team to find the best way to get the message out without it getting lost in an inbox.
Author: Robin Imbesi