6 tips to promote connectivity in the digital workplace
Lay a strong foundation of people, process and technology.
Published: March 12, 2020
Increasingly, “the office” is more a state of mind than a physical space. About 4.7 million people in the U.S. work from home at least half the time.1 Some companies operate with a 100% remote workforce. Others have flexible work arrangements that let people telecommute one to two days a week.
Even in organizations that don't have telework policies, employees tend to be always-on. Who hasn’t called into an early morning meeting while commuting to work, accessed critical applications after hours or connected with a customer in a completely different time zone without having to leave the house at the crack of dawn?
Modern business communication tools make it possible to bypass physical boundaries and traditional 9-to-5 hours with a digital workforce. They’ve also unlocked innovative advancements across multiple industries. Medical clinics consult with telehealth specialists. Retailers use chat to help online customers find the right products. Manufacturers hold video conferences with distant suppliers about product designs. Bank-branch managers teleconference into meetings with headquarters.
But technology alone can’t fuel a successful digital workplace.
Building a culture that supports flexible work arrangements—that connects everyone regardless of where they might be when they’re working—is the key to success.
Here are six tips to promote connectivity in your digital workforce. These tips can help foster better communication and collaboration in your organization to retain talent and maintain a competitive advantage.
1. Keep everyone on the same page.
If you’re conducting a teleconference, start the meeting by making sure everyone can hear you clearly. End your meeting by asking if anyone has questions. Follow up with an email or text summary of the meeting to avoid misunderstandings because it can sometimes be difficult for remote parties to break into the conversation. The same goes for retail workers’ chats or calls with customers—sending a written summary of the interaction helps prevent confusion.
Use whatever tools you need to get clarity. If back-and-forth email is getting too complicated, jump on a phone call. Otherwise, you risk wasting time and money. And in fields like telehealth, proper communication can be even more important to improve patient outcomes.
2. Bridge the (location) gap.
Despite the advantages of remote work, it can get lonely out there, and distant workers can miss out on networking opportunities and on-the-job training. Prevent fear of missing out (FOMO) by ensuring that managers schedule recurring one-on-ones with outside employees to discuss projects, goals and other issues. Encourage team bonding as well using the tools that work best for your team. Video is especially great for helping people feel like they’re in the same room as everyone else. Some companies also hold annual retreats (or multiple group offsite meetings) to unite everyone in person.
3. Invest in the right technology.
Use a unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) platform that will let you connect all of your communication tools. A good UC&C platform can pull in your customer relationship management (CRM) system, plus provide presence indicators, video chat, email, instant messaging, teleconferencing and other tools you need to communicate efficiently.
Make sure the network you’re using has good quality of service and strong service level agreements to provide high-quality connections. If your budget and your IT staff time is limited, consider using an “as a service” UC&C system. This lowers upfront costs and lets your IT team focus on other priorities.
Insist on strong security from your vendor for your digital workplace. Every industry is a potential cybercrime target. The healthcare, retail and financial services industries in particular need to be sure their communications comply with regulations such as HIPAA and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DDS), and manufacturers need strong security to protect their intellectual property.
4. Give your conference rooms a makeover.
Great technology only goes so far if you’re holding conference calls in rooms with bad acoustics. Glass walls and large screens provide too many surfaces for sounds to bounce around. Sound-absorbing wall panels can improve the acoustics. Consult with a reputable and knowledgeable collaboration and communications service provider for best results.
Good teleconference practices also help. Keep ambient noise low, avoiding rooms with HVAC system noise and open windows. Have onsite participants mute their mobile phones and keep them off the conference table, so they don’t vibrate loudly.
Install multiple microphones and place them directly in front of people, and also use an echo-canceling mixer so everyone can be heard.
Once you have a solid foundation, equip your modern conference room with collaboration solutions that can automatically connect to meetings from personal devices to maximize meeting time.
5. Don’t text and run.
Video and audio are usually the first channels that come to mind when you think of business communications. But writing is also a huge part of our daily communications at work, so it’s beneficial to pay attention to detail. Most of us have gotten used to rushing off texts and emails with minimal punctuation and zero spellcheck—but that can backfire.
If your coworker, client or supplier needs to email or text back multiple times for clarification—and perhaps you’re in different time zones, which causes additional delays in response—you’ve lost time. And if they misunderstand and implement your direction incorrectly, you may have an even bigger problem on hand.
Slow down and take a couple of minutes to review what you’ve written before you press Send.
6. Have fun.
This is especially important. Many companies use chat software to replicate the experience of “water cooler talk”—impromptu conversations that let people connect on a more personal level, share some stories and generally bond. Set up a channel where remote workers can chat and ask questions of coworkers, the same way they might walk across the room to a team member’s desk in real life. Seed the channel with intriguing articles and funny GIFs and let the conversation flow.
Make the most of unified communications and collaboration.
UC&C gives people the power to work together from almost anywhere, which gives you more flexibility in recruiting employees, serving customers and sourcing goods. Use these tools effectively to make everyone’s job easier and help your organization reach its goals.