Resolving internal communication problems brings business benefits
The switch from office working to working from home brought about by the coronavirus pandemic has had huge repercussions. While there have been some benefits, it has also had unforeseen consequences, including impacting the way people communicate.
The traditional office lends itself more naturally to open communication because everyone is sat together, while a growing reliance on communication technology such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams has created a more formal and less spontaneous way of communicating.
Make sure junior staff can get feedback
When people were urged to work at home if they could, digital marketing company Reboot Online switched from its employees working in the office to working full time at home. And, like many others, it replaced face-to-face contact with Zoom calls.
While, according to managing director Naomi Aharony, this had some benefits, the reliance on virtual connections also brought challenges. In particular, Naomi said that junior members of staff told her that it was preventing them from communicating with their team leaders.
“They were unsure what the best time was to catch them virtually for advice, feedback or help for fear they might disrupt them by catching them at the wrong time,” explained Naomi.
“This hesitance does not typically exist in the office because junior members can physically assess what their team leaders are doing before approaching them.”
According to Naomi, as a result of the absence of the normal feedback loop and exchange of constructive ideas that flowed naturally in the company’s pre-pandemic office environment, the company saw “a dip in the quality of final work”.
“Junior members of staff feel more relaxed because they have this support system in place where they can voice their opinion without being judged or ignored."
Naomi Aharony, MD, Reboot Online
Put in some structure
After a long chat with the company’s four team leaders, Naomi said that she and her co-founder came up with the idea of daily drop-in sessions on Zoom. Each lasting 20 minutes, the first one at 9:30am is compulsory for everyone and focuses on planning the day ahead. It allows junior staff to alert team leaders of any concerns or issues about the projects they are working on and provides an opportunity for people to catch up informally.
The second at 1:30pm is optional. Naomi said the afternoon sessions have proved a good opportunity to communicate any problems or concerns that arose during the morning, as well as to assess progress towards meeting targets, and to adjust workflows and timeframes.
Reap the benefits
Naomi believes the overwhelming response from both team leaders and junior staff has been “very positive”.
“Both sides appreciate the virtual face-to-face interaction as opposed to just talking via online chats because they have more of an arena to expand upon their thoughts and ideas.
“Junior members of staff feel more relaxed because they have this support system in place where they can voice their opinion without being judged or ignored,” she said.
According to Naomi, there have been unexpected benefits too, with junior staff members wanting to take on more responsibility for their own individual projects and to develop their expertise.
In one instance, a junior member of staff used a drop-in session to ask if she could incorporate her own graphics within her projects, something she had been reluctant to mention previously. This led to the company offering to pay for her to go on a course to advance her design skills.
What to do next?
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location: East of England
business size: 10-49 People
business type: Digital, technology & computer services
Top three takeaways
Whenever a company is going through change or upheaval it is likely to put a strain on internal communications.
Fine tuning what you already have is likely to be easier to manage than changing your internal communications overnight.
Always look for feedback from staff on what further improvements can be made.