How to Strengthen Company-Wide Communication, In and Out of the Remote Workplace
From all-hands-on-deck meetings to company-wide memos and project updates in collaboration applications, organizational communications keep businesses running. But effective communications — which inspire innovation, engage employees, bolster productivity, increase cooperation and connect diverse workplaces — keep businesses running well.
Poor workplace communications can impact not only a company's culture, but also its long-term success. Organizations with 100,000 employees or more lose an estimated $60 million annually due to inadequate communications according to a report from SkillPath and Enterprise Solutions. Poor communication also contributes to an uptick in work-related stress, an increase in stalled or collapsed projects and low workplace morale.
The same holds true for smaller enterprises. A Microsoft study of employees working within small- to mid-sized businesses in the UK found that poor internal communication among teams and deficient organizational transparency and communication were the top causes of workplace stress.
With honest evaluation, creative brainstorming, and the will to grow, improving organizational communication is possible for any company — regardless of whether it operates within a traditional, onsite structure or incorporates remote work. The journey to improved communications begins with universal approaches that any enterprise can adopt, as well as special communication considerations for remote work, a hallmark of modern businesses.
3 Ways to Enhance Organizational Communication
1. Make Company Information Accessible
Organizational communication, including upward, downward and horizontal communication, should be accessible to employees while honoring confidentiality agreements and respecting individual roles within the enterprise. Improving organizational information accessibility is achievable with suggestions like:
- Employee rights and benefits information, staff policies and conduct rules, announcements and special instructions can be posted to private company servers and/or remote team collaboration software.
- Team communication applications, like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Basecamp, can be used for departmental and interdepartmental cooperation and workflow management, as well as file sharing, asking questions and receiving feedback, publishing and updating department guidelines, and more.
- Private information, surveys and forms related to areas like employee status and paperwork, internal reviews and investigations, health, wages and human resources activity should be kept within confidential software channels or restricted cloud folders that are only shared with the employee and other need-to-know personnel, such as upper management and the employee’s direct manager.
Related Article: Internal Communicators, Please Don't Abandon the Intranet
2. Be Responsive
Responsiveness in workplace communication, which refers to the speed and directness of a response, is a reputation builder — or destroyer. Issuing timely responses to internal communications fosters better business relationships, contributes to a workplace culture rooted in respect for oneself and others, and demonstrates admirable time management skills. When managers and employees are responsive to organizational communications, they will continue to practice responsiveness in their outside communications with customers and investors.
Business leaders can set the responsiveness standard for employees to follow by implementing a few communication rules:
- Recognize that one party’s level of responsiveness could impact the ability of other colleagues to successfully perform their job responsibilities or progress to the next phase of a plan.
- Do not assume everyone knows everything about the subject of the conversation or project status.
- Review communications daily to check for messages or emails that are time-sensitive. If communications do not need immediate answers, or if the responses will require time and research to craft, send a quick response to acknowledge the messages and inform the senders that complete answers will be provided as soon as possible. This not only updates the senders and allows them to make any necessary documentation, but also helps leaders prioritize tasks within their own workflows.
3. Refine Best Practices for Work Meetings
Depending on the size of the company, meetings can be hectic and counterproductive, particularly if they are used as the primary source of delivering information. To improve company-wide communication, evaluate and hone meeting best practices to ensure they function in the most efficient manner possible. Within the assessment, consider the following questions about meeting effectiveness:
- Does the meeting need to happen, or can the information be more succinctly conveyed in an email, newsletter or memo?
- Who needs to be present for the meeting vs. who wants to be present?
- Has the meeting agenda been published in advance?
- What are the current meeting objectives as well as the action and follow-up items going forward?
- Who will document, share and archive the meeting’s highlights?
Related Article: Are You Sure You Want to Schedule Another Meeting?
9 Ways to Improve Communication in Remote Work Environments
Communication is vital to productivity when teams are working remotely. Effective communication keeps geographically dispersed teams united and engaged as they collaborate, and is a core part of any solution when workplace problems arise.
These suggestions for communicating in remote work environments can support and improve positive, efficient interactions between teleworking team members:
1. Tailor Communication Methods to Suit the Business
Consider the type of telecommuting arrangement implemented within the business and adjust communication styles accordingly. For example, hybrid companies, which employ both onsite and remote workers, must be conscious of telecommuting staff’s contributions; this ensures the physical presence of their onsite counterparts does not overshadow remote workers’ achievements. Fully virtual companies, however, must be vigilant in combatting the isolation and loneliness many telecommuters experience. Routinely checking in with virtual employees and contractors, as well as developing opportunities for team building, will strengthen communication within distributed teams.
Related Article: Dealing With the 'Soft' Challenges of Remote Work
2. Incorporate Multiple Communication Styles
Use both anachronous (e.g. email, instant messages, updates in remote collaboration apps, etc.) and synchronous communication (e.g. video meanings, phone calls, live chat, etc.) to accommodate schedule variations and communication styles among remote employees.
3. Be Present When Communicating
Practice active listening during meetings by not multitasking on other work or personal projects, removing environmental and digital distractions, closing out unnecessary browser tabs, disabling audible notifications, and conducting the meeting from a professional setting like a dedicated home office or quiet meeting space.
4. Respect and Appreciate Individuality
Demonstrate empathy and professionalism by asking co-workers about their communication preferences and taking steps to respect cultural differences and boundaries.
5. Get to Know Remote Colleagues
Connect on a personal level, through casual chats, team-bonding activities or even a simple daily “good morning” to colleagues, all of which reinforce company culture even from a home office.
6. Use Tech Tools for Success
Leverage technology to streamline communication avenues with collaborative apps for remote teams, internal messaging systems, and file-sharing software. Ensure remote team communication plans include video calls and do not operate in a text-only communication style.
Related Article: Working and Managing Remote: What's Realistic to Expect?
7. Pause and Breathe Before Clicking 'Send'
Be mindful of tone, especially when communicating with telecommuting colleagues via text. Body language and visual cues that convey mood and intention are lost when chatting online, exchanging emails, or talking on the phone. This is a breeding ground for emotional transference and assumptions that lead to poor communication.
8. Define Standards, Then Listen
Support transparent, proactive, two-way communication between telecommuting employees and managers. Remote leaders must clearly outline expectations and telework policies from the start; meanwhile, remote employees should be encouraged to ask questions and provide feedback.
9. Exercise Communication Flexibility
In remote work settings, emergencies, technical difficulties, and unforeseen scheduling changes will inevitably happen. Instead of micromanaging teleworkers, provide extra lead time for tasks, welcome overcommunication, and prioritize hiring the right team members who will consistently meet expectations in a distributed work environment.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to company-wide interactions, organizations should create workplaces, whether onsite or offsite, that facilitate effective communication. Transparent, collaborative workplaces boost workplace morale, reduce stress, encourage employee engagement and improve productivity, especially within remote work environments. Steps like making company information accessible, being responsive, and refining work meeting best practices are actions employers can take to enhance their workplace communication strategies to the benefit of their businesses as well as their employees.
About the Author
Laura Spawn is the CEO and co-founder of Virtual Vocations. Alongside her brother, Laura founded Virtual Vocations in February 2007 with one goal in mind: connecting job seekers with legitimate telecommute job openings.