Work From Home Communications Considerations for Businesses
Today’s guest post was written by Ecommerce Platforms, a reviewer of online store software.
Lockdown means that speaking online is now the primary method of communication and it comes with its own quirks – it’s not a given that someone who adores speaking face-to-face will enjoy a video call as much.
In today’s post, I’ll cover a number of work from home communications considerations and show you how to get the most out of your communications from contending with training issues to dealing with outside distractions.
While not all of these will be relevant to everyone in your business, each of them will likely concern someone in your company, so I hope you will consider all of them and then apply these lessons to your organization as they fit.
Training Issues to Contend With
Not everyone is tech-savvy – those who are will be surprised at how difficult it can be for a non-techy to set themselves up for online communication.
Take one of my friends.
He’s an operations manager at a call center, one whose staff worked almost exclusively from the office prior to lockdown.
Now, I won’t go into all the details of how that’s affected him, but here’s one example.
A member of his team was being remotely set up to work from home. My friend asked them to hit the spacebar. The reply was “what button is that?” It took 10 minutes for the staff member to establish that it was the “long one.”
That might be an extreme (and extremely painful) example, but its lesson still applies to you – you need to be prepared and plan for all work from home communications considerations because you may need to spend a long time explaining things to people.
Having the Right Equipment in Place to Communicate
I’ll admit that I take for granted that I have the right equipment to work from home and communicate with colleagues and clients. I often work from home, meaning I have up-to-date experience with what I require.
But you shouldn’t take this for granted with your employees because you’d be surprised by how much equipment they might be missing.
There are a number of equipment shortfalls and pitfalls you can expect.
Think your employees have a computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, microphone, camera and all the other communications essentials? It’s important to consider that they might not own all these personal devices. It could be necessary for you to supply a laptop but additional equipment as well.
You might confidently think to yourself, “it’s fine, my employees have a PC and all those other things.” But I’ll toss a curveball at you – data protection.
It’s not enough for them to have their own equipment. They need company equipment that’s secure and will pair well with each other.
Think about, for instance, that you’re like me and you work with two screens. At work you can connect your device to your monitor fairly simply – all you need is a micro USB to HDMI and you’re done. There’s no security risk in connecting your device to a monitor to create a second view for your work.
At home, you might have an all in one PC (I do) that’s not company-supplied. To connect it to workplace servers or equipment might require the installation of special software. It might even be easier to supply employees with company equipment rather than format their personal computers to become more secure.
The level of dedication this requires will vary depending on your security needs. In the most extreme cases, it could require deliveries of the right equipment to employees at their homes. This could take weeks to orchestrate, essentially making setup time one of your most important initial work from home communications consideration.
Deciding on the Communications Platform to Use
You can rest here for a bit. Because while deciding on the communications platform to use is enormously important, it’s actually quite straightforward.
I’ve used the following communications platforms and can offer a few pros and cons I’ve experienced with each:
- Free to use
- Has a nice tile view for seeing call participants
- Participants need to have a Google account
- Needs a high and stable bandwidth
- Up to 250 people per meeting
- Free for 40 minutes of group chat
- Security is a concern
- Multiple reports have shown information security concerns and video chat interruptions
- Great functionality with collaborative tools
- Works well on mobile devices
- Permission settings can be difficult to use
- Can experience lag issues
That gives you an idea of what to expect and some things to consider. However, you will need to try these platforms out yourself and establish if they meet the communications needs of your business.
Outside Distractions Can Impact Communication
When working from home, it can be difficult to remove yourself from distractions. Even if you have lots of experience working from home, chances are that you won’t have experience of doing so while your whole house is at home.
The potential for distraction creates plenty of communications issues. Here are a few specific events you could encounter:
- A Google Hangouts presentation being interrupted by a noisy child
- A cat racing across a laptop and interrupting a Microsoft Teams chat
- Neighbours playing music loudly while you’re having a Zoom call
Basically, you can demand professionalism from your team, employees, and superiors, but you can’t expect that it will always be delivered upon because you’re not in the office – you’re in people’s homes.
Be prepared and considerate of circumstances. Diplomacy is key when something unexpected happens.
How People Cope With Online Communications
It’s easy to assume that online communications are the same as face-to-face interaction. You can still see people’s faces and take clues from body language.
The thing is, though, online communications really aren’t the same as speaking in person. The most personal of these work from home communications considerations is that people cope with this challenge in different ways.
You might be the sort of person who speaks confidently when standing in front of a room of people. However, when you’re on set with dozens of squares of people’s faces on a screen you may shrink into yourself a little.
Some people will experience communicating from home differently than communicating in the office. Managers should be aware of and accommodating to this possibility. A few informal test runs can ease everyone into the new way of communicating, and it can give you the chance, as a company, to test-run several video chat platforms before committing to one.
Make Your Communications Smooth
Business communication during lockdown is quite different to what you’ve experienced prior to COVID-19. Not everyone in your company will have had experience working from home. Even among those who have, regular video conferences and remote work can require adjustments as a new normal develops.
Take my pieces of advice to heart as your company makes the move to working from home. You will be better off when you’re aware of the benefits and challenges this type of work environment will create. And the more you know, the smoother your daily communication will be.