The transition to remote work at the beginning of the pandemic threw many businesses for a loop. During the first few months of adjustment, it became apparent how important internal communication was, and still is. Before, team members had ample opportunities to stop by and speak with a coworker. Now that we are not afforded the luxury of in-person communication, a solid mobile-friendly communication structure is crucial for success.

Since it seems as though remote work is here to stay, it will benefit business leaders to look back over these past months and reevaluate. What worked during this time? What needs to be re-structured? What will be necessary for success in the future? Below are some tips and areas of focus for optimizing communication for a remote and hybrid workforce.

More Visual Communication

As businesses continue to work primarily remotely, video will continue to increase in importance. Communication has its challenges when team members are remote, but visual communication really helps to bridge this gap. Being able to see team members helps build a sense of comradery and helps everyone feel less isolated from one another, while making collaboration more productive. The good thing is that 5G, which is quickly approaching, has bandwidth available to support ultra-high-definition video for conferencing. This will make video conferencing even more appealing and effective for remote work.

On-Demand Content for Communications

Not only will video benefit your workforce in the way of conferencing and meetings, it also is the preferred way to consume all content in general. In fact, employees are 75% more likely to watch a video than read text. Leverage video for training materials, company communications, operational and peer-based communications, etc. Use tools like MS Stream for internal sharing. YouTube and Vimeo are great for externally facing messaging to reinforce your brand, promote products and services, or place your company in a position of authority.

Anywhere/Anytime Flexibility

We’ve witnessed a big mobile first push over the past year. This will only continue when 5G finally arrives and offers even more in the way of mobility. Thought should be given to allowing your workforce to work when and where it is convenient for them, perhaps within certain guidelines. While this may not work for every type of industry, those that lend themselves to this kind of flexibility will see a demand for it.

According to Owl Labs State of Remote Work 2020, 1 in 2 people will not return to jobs that don’t offer remote work after COVID-19.  This survey study also showed that 75% of people are the same or MORE productive at home, while 80% expect to work from home at least three times a week. If you don’t plan on extending a work from home option after the pandemic is through, you may want to reconsider.

Employee Experience, Wellness, and Engagement

We have long said that consumer expectations drive business requirements. This has never been truer than it is today, especially with a highly mobile workforce. When it comes to communication, employees expect tools that are easy to use, easy to access, and functional. Your company’s communication tools need to be built to provide exceptional experiences. If they aren’t, you’re going to have a hard time attracting and retaining talent.

Another area to focus on is wellness and engagement. While this used to be the responsibility of the HR department, it is now proving to be a vital part of the overall business strategy. Unengaged, unwell employees hinder productivity and innovation. Opening channels of communication using proper tools helps business leaders gauge their employees’ wellbeing and engagement.

Operational Communication

Create better channels for internal operational communication. Effective operational communication enables different departments to carry out the operational goals of your company more quickly, and more effectively. This form of communication is crucial for your company’s success by connecting the day-to-day, on the ground actions of your employees throughout multiple departments. Good communication is what will enable success at an operational level – it will drive efficiency and productivity.

This is where tools like Slack and Teams come in. Tools like these enable communication from the top down, bottom up, and horizontally with functional interdepartmental teams. This prevents communication gaps, which increases productivity as well as employee experience. These tools also enable access to important documents from anywhere, allowing your employees to easily get their hands on the information they need to do their jobs properly.

More Communication

Employees need to feel connected to their organization to perform at their highest level. When gaps in communication occur, employees become less engaged and lose that “team” mentality. Important information, like new projects and initiatives, should be communicated on a regular basis to promote transparency. In addition, instead of one-way communications, like emailed newsletters, consider setting up an intranet or employee portal so you can receive feedback from team members and initiate discussions. Make sure your communications contain more targeted, specific topics. Not only does sending out more general, non-applicable communications waste time, it deters your employees from reading the applicable ones in the future.

Increasing the frequency of communications to employees is important as we shift from fully remote to more of a hybrid work environment. But it isn’t only the quantity of communication, but the quality that will really help to improve productivity and team morale. As businesses begin to open their workspaces back up to employees, it will be crucial to utilize spaces that promote conversation and collaboration. Open workspaces that give employees the freedom to gather where they choose encourages creative collaboration and boosts productivity. In fact, research says that this alone can increase worker productivity by 25%.

Final Thoughts

For many companies, mobile-first initiatives have been on the horizon for a long time. It wasn’t until COVID came along, however, that companies were forced to look at their company’s structure from a mobile-first lens and really reevaluate their strategy. Since it’s pretty clear that remote work is here to stay, now is the time to look back on the past year and a half and evaluate what worked and what we could have done differently. Effective forms of communication will be the key to success, and tools will continue to evolve to optimize this crucial part of business. It’s up to us to discover and utilize them!