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How to improve communication when your team works from home

communication while working from home

As a recruitment business we understand better than most the importance of a face to face meeting and social interactions. Proper communication between teams, our clients and candidates is the key to building successful relationships and getting the job done.

At the moment, all office based workers are being advised to work from home. While the novelty of this seems exciting at first, it’s presented employees (and employers) with a number of logistical problems. Beyond the migration of IT equipment, teams that traditionally met face to face on a daily basis are having to adapt the way they communicate for this new working arrangement. 

Gone is the luxury of speaking to each other on demand. So, below are some key suggestions for ways you can improve communication between your teams while you work from home.

‘’One of the most important things in a time like this is to keep positive. Kicking off the morning with a team call, having a laugh and setting goals so that everyone feels like they have a purpose and structure in their day.’’

Robert Murray – Divisional Manager, Oyster Partnership

Meetings

In recruitment daily meetings with your team and managers are essential. Things in our industry can change several times a day, so keeping up your team and colleagues is very important. As well as not having continual updates, we also miss out on important positive wins, and miss out on sharing the good news with each other; it’s essential not to lose this morale boost during lockdown. 

If you didn’t have meetings before, you’ll need to now. Perhaps team meetings and one on ones aren’t your thing, but with the added distance and an inability to check in and/or catch up, we strongly suggest you have daily or twice-weekly meetings. They’re necessary to establish each other’s workload, deadlines and the level of support needed – and there’s no doubt we can all agree that at this time we need the extra support from one another.

improve communication when working from home

If a daily meeting seems more of a hindrance than a help, try meeting on a Monday and Friday to talk through the expectations for the week – as a manager or project lead this can’t be skipped over, particularly as everyone works differently when working from home. You can’t assume that your accounts team (for example) are without distraction from kids, TV or the change in their ‘office environment’. We’re not suggesting you assume the worst of your team, but instead consider that not everyone will have a suitable space to work effectively from home. 

“The switch to 100% working from home and switching to video conferencing has demonstrated what is possible….and we are seeing a whole raft of innovative solutions in the wake of government regulation [in order] to facilitate remote committees. What will be most interesting is what we keep as the new normal.”

Mike Kiely – Planning Advisor, R.B. of Kingston on Thames

Calendar

Another organisational tactic could be to sync and share calendars while you’re working from home; we use Monday.com. This is particularly important if you’re collaborating on a project, but it’s also a way to understand the working environments everyone’s in. By encouraging your team to plan out their day (even if it just says ‘busy’) you’ll help re-establish a work/life balance and demonstrate your understanding of more complex schedules that have to work around partners and child care.

Move away from stigmatising this as micro management and demonstrate that this is there to help strike a balance between work time and down time, while allowing everyone else to respect these boundaries too.

improve communication when working from home

“Important to maintain informal communication with team members as well as the formal stuff, otherwise it can feel grinding. Brief round-robin exchanges at the beginning of the day with a sign off at the end without instruction. Acknowledging emails received even if it’s just to say thanks-keep your electronic diary up to date and block book time out when you’ve got your head down.  Ensure any direction instruction stuff is verbal-with confirmation by email. Set aside some time for verbal or email “chat” with colleagues on the normal stuff you’d talk about in the office but remember you are in a work environment even if it doesn’t feel like it!”

Paul McKim, Planning Manager, Charnwood BC

Slack

It goes without saying that an instant message service like Slack provides the perfect combination of communication and record keeping. 

While we typically might rely on getting an answer instantly from one another, the lockdown has stripped us of this luxury; While we might be tempted to pick up the phone, this can be distracting and impractical (if you’re using your phone for work). Instead, a free instant messaging service like Slack allows individuals, as well as teams working on projects to put their thoughts, questions and files into one place where they can be easily monitored and retrieved without relying on mobile networks and landlines.

Phone calls

Arguably, there’s no workaround for this when you’re working from home. Above we mentioned, moving away from relying on calls for team communication, but if you need your staff to use their phones be prepared for:

  1. Intermittent call quality
  2. Increased phone bills

It’s fair to assume most people have a mobile and some kind of package, but as not everyone will have access to unlimited calls/texts we recommend that you offer to upgrade and even take over paying for these services so no one is left struggling to meet the demands of the job.

In particular, don’t assume that people will come forward for help, extend the offer first so people can feel free to reach out to ask for help with their phone bill during this time.

“Crisis management is never easy- so we looked at our crisis policies, critical processes and procedures, made recommendations for dealing with common COVID-19 complaints and created call centre scripts for expected crisis questions. We also provided extra support for those officers that used special equipment to do their jobs, chairs, desk risers, keyboards, mouse etc by having them sent to their homes…We also encourage balanced lifestyle/ wellbeing [and are maintaining morale through] regular praise and encouragements.”

Beverley Gordon, Customer Service Team Manager, Brent Council

Conferencing

Video conferencing is the only way to mimic face to face contact which is why it’s key to improving communication while you work from home. While it might be tempting to rely on voice calls only, you cannot compare these to the power of seeing someone and communicating with them face to face. Whether it’s a client or team member, always go for a video and encourage your team to be ready for them.

improve communication when working from home

As we said in our previous article ‘14 tips from recruitment specialists on how to stay focused while you work from home’, getting changed and treating the workday as if you were in the office is key to maintaining productivity while working from home.

Most businesses are relying on Zoom if they don’t have Google’s Business Suite as these offer unparalleled value, accessibility and features.

“I think what’s worked really well is having clear expectations on what needs to be done and achieved (along with timescales). We’re having a morning/lunch/evening zoom meetings to catch up as a team and discuss how everyone has got on. Not only is this interactive so people get to communicate during what can be quite a lonely time, but it also provides some routine and a chance for me to hold individuals to account on work being produced.”

Jaspreet Bhogal, Associate Director, Oyster Partnership

The Author…


Jane Kisnica

Marketing Assistant, Oyster Partnership

Jane joined Oyster Partnership in November 2017 as a receptionist. She started showing her artistic flair and enthusiasm for all things marketing soon after joining the business. Since then she has worked hard and built her way up from being a receptionist to running the marketing department at Oyster Partnership.


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