Remote workers – can technology help bridge the gap?
A survey conducted by StaffConnect — the leading provider of mobile employee engagement solutions — found that non-desk employees or remote workers remain the ‘forgotten workforce’.
What does this lack of communication do to employee morale and productivity, and how can businesses tackle an increasingly mobile workforce?
With an increasing number of people working remotely and flexibly, the staff meeting isn’t the communications powerhouse it once was.
Email is still heavily used, with 77% of businesses surveyed in Europe and North America still relying on it to communicate with employees.
But what if your employees are on construction sites, in operating theatres or driving lorries?
These people will likely miss out on business information because they either don’t have an email address or they have no means of accessing email during work hours.
Feeling left out of the loop can make your team feel excluded and lower morale. It can also result in them missing vital safety information and increase your staff turnover.
Alternative communication methods for remote workers
There’s no doubt that face-to-face communication is usually the best way to go but post COVID this has become something of a problem.
And with an increasingly mobile workforce, it’s just not always practical.
Email is often the fall-back option but if a business can’t rely on this for some (or all) of its employees, what else is out there?
If you have groups of people working at different sites, consider putting up a noticeboard in an area where people congregate. Breakout areas or kitchens for example.
Boards can be used to display information such as newsletters, new joiners, leavers, financial update and performance stats.
Hardcopy newsletters can be produced and distributed each quarter or each month. Alternatively, newsletters can be left in a staff area. It’s a chance to share business and team news.
Now big team meetings are out of the question, perhaps have a small “socially distanced” team huddle before a shift. This can work well in the hospitality or retail industry for example. Information can be passed down from HQ ahead of time.
All of the suggestions so far only work if there is a base and there is more than one person there.
If you’re working remotely though, it’s not an option. Your team may be working in an environment which isn’t secure, so leaving company information on a noticeboard or in a newsletter lying around isn’t a good idea. There are other options out there though.
We don’t mean sharing a desk. Oh no. We mean a digital workspace.
Software like ‘Trello’ allows people to access the same documents, see updates and messages and project plans and timelines. Individuals can access it whenever it’s convenient and there is a mobile version too, for those people on the go.
There are a number of Apps available, such as Slack and Bitrix24, which provide a way of communicating for remote workers. Whether people are office based, work remotely, away from a PC or the other side of the world, app-based communication can help to bridge the gap.
Video conferencing or webinars for remote workers
As long as people have access to a computer or mobile device, it’s possible to be part of video conferencing. Video conferencing via Zoom has really taken off since the Coronavirus crisis with far more of us working from home and there are also far more sophisticated systems such as Microsoft Teams which integrate with a hots of other software and systems.
If time differences or shift patterns mean live calls aren’t easy, record a webinar which staff can watch at a time to suit them.
This can be a good option for people who are travelling a lot as they can be downloaded and listened too on a mobile phone. If you want to share an update on a new product for example, a podcast can be a great way to engage people.
The humble text message
Now this is a bit of a marmite suggestion really. Getting a text message on your company phone might be ok but on your personal mobile it might be a bit of a no-no. Provided not overused, texts can be a good option for short messages or reminders. If you’re not careful though they could become unmanageable, like an email inbox.
As we have pointed out, there are lots of ways to communicate with staff who are not based in the same building as you. However, there is a lot more to good communication than your choice of channel.
Communication should be regular and relevant and people should have a way of getting in touch and having their voice heard too.
Consider also that people in the office may hear information before those working remotely. So, if it’s sensitive information, make sure everyone finds out at the same time.
How can THP help?
About Samantha Rowe
Sam’s title is Operations Manager, but the title itself doesn’t truly convey the variety of what she does for THP. From administrative tasks to payroll, strategic business planning, and office systems and procedures, Sam’s primary skill lies in multitasking.
Sam’s journey began as an office junior with George Nottage (now merged with THP), and she soon learned skills in payroll and bookkeeping, and then gained experience as a PA to the Directors, and as Administration Manager.
At the moment, Auto Enrolment is an area that has a key focus for Sam, and for THP as a whole. “The question I’m asked the most by clients just now is, ‘How will auto enrolment affect me?’ And the answer is, no matter how big or small you are, you will absolutely be affected by the Auto Enrolment regulations. I’d encourage you to start thinking about it now, and to look at your payroll software to make sure you’re ready.”