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ASCM Insights

Enhance Remote Team Performance in the COVID-19 Environment

By Gerri Knilans

Escalating concerns about the impact and spread of COVID-19 are causing major changes in the way businesses and society operate, nationally and internationally. As a result of major anxiety about health safety, businesses are taking precautions as they cancel events and ask employees to work from home. While remote workplaces are nothing new, the importance of effective, consistent communication in this environment is essential to maintaining productivity. Here are seven ways to boost remote communications:

  1. Manage proactively. When managing remote workers, one of the keys to success is being proactive, rather than reactive. Clearly define roles and assignments to staff. Don’t wait for progress reports or updates. Instead, initiate communications regularly with staff of all levels to ensure projects are progressing, that employee workload is reasonable, and to understand when individuals require additional help or can take on more.
  2. Maintain a culture of transparency. By initiating communications from the top levels of the organization, leaders model expectations and behavior that encourages employees at all levels to do the same. Interestingly, 85% of employees say they’re most motivated when management offers regular updates on company news. Share financials, personnel changes, new clients and ongoing developments. Keep all stakeholders informed of changes and projects to boost understanding and contribution.
  3. Prioritize email and mobile communications. Since spontaneous and face-to-face interactions will be less frequent, increase reliance on email and mobile communications. There are 5 billion cell phone owners around the world, making mobile communications one of the most ubiquitous. Email reigns high as a method to get in touch at any time of day, directly to a person’s inbox, with the option of bulk sending. When 60% of work email accounts get checked one or more times a day, email serves as a vital communication method for a remote workforce. 
  4. Maintain an internal communications plan. Because internal communications can significantly influence employee productivity, make sure you have a current internal communications plan. Internal communications include employee newsletters and email communication, employee manuals and handbooks, newly produced and distributed press releases, webinars, and live chats. Ensure consistent communications are kept top of mind, especially during times when workers may be confused or concerned.
  5. Use technology to your advantage. There are countless software applications built for communication. These can be messaging apps, video conferencing software, webinar platforms, social media distribution apps, listening marketing apps, customer relationship management software, project management software and more. In times when many workers are operating remotely, the use of these applications can greatly increase ease of communication and project management. If you’re unsure where to start, check out some of our recommendations in this blog.
  6. Create and share a detailed schedule. When a large number of workers are operating remotely, it can be difficult to coordinate all the moving parts. By developing a shared schedule, employees will know how to stay on track, when to bring topics to a group meeting, which projects to prioritize and when to ask for help. Ensure your schedule is visible and known to all. Continue to adjust as needed.
  7. Create a collaborative culture. One of the key factors to a successful remote team is inclusiveness, despite physical distance. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. To foster collaboration, be transparent and ask open-ended questions to get insightful input. Lead with the intent of listening, learning from and growing with your team. Allow traditional methods to be challenged and new ideas to flourish. Encourage staff to learn from each other and work together. Open communication across multiple staff levels creates collaboration, facilitates better understanding and produces innovative ways to enhance performance.

A time to pull together

COVID-19 is forcing many of us to avoid contact and remain in our homes as much as possible. This environment, however, doesn’t mean that we’re alone. With our digitally connected society, we can maintain community despite physical distancing. This isn’t a time to separate, but to continue to pull together, spotlight successes and focus on people. Use these tips to continue to prioritize relationships, communication and connection without sacrificing health and safety. 

Gerri Knilans is president of Trade Press Services. As marketing communications strategists, serving organizations of all sizes and types since 1995, the company provides writing, media outreach and general marketing support to help clients accelerate growth and generate more visibility, credibility and name recognition in their marketplaces. For additional information, please visit www.tradepressservices.com or email gerri@tradepressservices.com.

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