The seismic changes that the Covid pandemic created in the workplace include a transition of about 40% of workers to remote positions. This abrupt and unplanned for change brought with it a host of challenges.
Difficulty in maintaining workflows is right near the top of many lists. Yet, an even greater challenge facing teams is communication at work. Given how crucial a free flow of ideas is to many teams, breakdowns in communication can delay or even derail projects.
Wondering how to improve communication? Keep reading for some tips and tricks to improve communication in these trying times.
1. Talk Openly about the Challenges
As a leader, it falls on you to set the tone. If you pretend that the world isn’t going a little crazy, it forces your employees to do the same. Or, it forces them to talk about you behind your back. Instead, address the challenges your team faces openly. Talk about what you see as the stumbling blocks and propose some solutions. Then, invite your team to do the same. This lets everyone get their cards on the table. Just as importantly, it may provide you with new or better ideas for managing the team.
2. Have a Little Fun
One way you can improve communication in a team is with a little bit of fun. A great approach for this is the Truth and Lies game. In it, each person offers two or three facts about themselves and manufactures one plausible lie.
Each person gets a chance to share their list. Everyone else must then do their best to spot the lie in the mix. This lets everyone share a little about themselves, which helps cement the team mentality. It’s an excellent option for remote workers since you can do it in a telemeeting. It’s also a nice tension breaker because it breaks up the usual routines.
3. Make Team Collaboration Easy
The more complicated the processes for communication, the less smoothly team communication will go. Decide early on what methods you’ll use for communication. Then, make those methods readily available for remote workers.
If you use teleconferencing, pick a software package that is free to use for small meetings. If you expect employees to shuffle around big files, foot the bill for the Dropbox account. If you’ll use chat software, go with something mainstream. Ideally, go with an application everyone on your team already uses. The less time employees spend worrying about making the communication channel work, the more time they’ll spend communicating with each other.
4. Encourage Flexibility
The risk of employee burnout runs especially high right now. Working from home creates unique challenges. For example, your employee may have a spouse also working from home. Add some uncertainty about school for the kids, and you’ve got an employee with a lot of stress.
Imposing rigid rules about when employees must clock in and clock out adds another layer of stress. You can reduce the odds of burnout by encouraging employees to focus on working during productive times in their day. At the very least, this should improve the quality of team communication. If employees work when they’re at their best, you’ll get better input from them.
5. Get Your Time Tracking in Order
When everyone shows up in the office, you can maintain a general mental impression of who shows up and who doesn’t. When everyone works from home, maybe during odd hours, you need a better time tracking tool than your memory. Your best option is time tracking software. That lets employees clock their hours as they work them.
It also arms you for necessary conversations. If someone clearly struggles to get their hours in, even with flexible scheduling, the time card should show that. It also serves as a starting point for discussing the importance of meeting their obligations even under current circumstances.
If they’re clocking all their hours but their work volume is down, that means a different but equally necessary conversation. In all cases, though, it gives you the information to communicate before drastic actions become necessary.
6. Give Credit
Higher-ups often direct praise for good work at a team leader or supervisor. All too often, team leaders accept that credit without mentioning their team. It’s a quick way for you to erode trust and shut down the team communication. It’s also a good indicator that you’re deeply insecure about your position. Not a good look on anyone.
Instead, redirect that praise to your team as a whole or single out exemplary individuals. This will help cement their trust in you. That trust will help improve team communication since people will worry less that you’ll hog credit for their good ideas. As a bonus, acknowledging team contributions to success also helps boost overall team morale. Good morale always supports good communication.
7. Take and Implement Feedback
No one brings all the answers to the table. If people could, we wouldn’t need teams. That’s why asking for feedback is so important.
It tells you what is working, what’s not working, and what might work with some adjustments. Of course, it’s not enough to just listen to the feedback. You must implement at least some of the changes suggested. Again, this builds trust and encourages more and more open team communication.
Building Better Communication at Work
You can’t build better communication at work with just one approach. What you can do is start with one approach and build from there.
Start with the technical stuff. Getting the software for communication up and running solves a lot of problems before they start. After that, communicate openly about the challenges. Use this as an opportunity to start the process of taking and implementing feedback. Work in some fun, especially after you’ve had difficult discussions with employees. Give credit whenever you can.