Now that working from home is the ‘new normal’, teams around the world are adjusting to communicating entirely online and through voice and video calls. It’s an ongoing learning process as we figure out the most effective ways to be productive in the home office, aka the dining room table. Transitioning from a more structured work environment to an unstructured environment has meant we’ve had our fair share of crackling calls, poor connections and chat participants zoning out or driven to distraction by the Brady Bunch faces peering out from the virtual abyss. Now that it’s been a while, we’ve gotten into a groove and nailed a few of the essentials. Technology, your company culture and good communications are the crucial components for success. You need effective tools, a degree of self-awareness and empathy, and some systems and processes that actually work.
1. Map out clear expectations for day-to-day communications with your team and clients.
Aside from set meetings, what is the best way to manage your daily work flow during this time so that everyone feels supported and is clear on priorities? This is not the time to under-communicate, use all available methods to keep in touch with home-bound workers: email, chat, video calls, telephone. Create a communication playbook that outlines the who, what, when, and how the team can expect to interact. This could look like an internal morning kick off with a 10 minute check-in, or something more formal – and it can be adjusted accordingly depending on everyone’s feedback. Do certain people need more of your time? Whatever you land on, make sure it’s working and don’t micro-manage your team by going through every item on each person’s to-do list. People can manage their workflow effectively when they know that they have appropriate access to team members or stakeholders.
2. Communicate your availability
Publish/have an open calendar so others can see it and quickly understand your commitments. You can also update your Zoom/Slack Chat status to busy when you need to.
3. It’s not just what you say – it’s how you say it
Take extra care with your wording on any written communications. Mind your tone and err on the side of politeness and caution, tensions are fraught during this time and it’s cool to be kind. Whilst we may be time-crunched and brevity feels effective, one-word responses, a lack of salutations or hastily written feedback can be wrongly interpreted.
4. Get the right tools in place
Now is the time to ensure everyone is using the right tools for the right type of conversation – whether that’s Slack and whatsapp for text message and Skype or Zoom for video call, or virtual task management tools like Basecamp. Pick a system, learn it and stick with it. Make sure everyone has a solid understanding of how to use their apps, and if not, encourage them to attend online trainings.
5. Use the tools effectively
Videochat do’s & don’ts
- Stay on mute in large meetings just in case a dog barks or someone rings the doorbell. Holding the spacebar on Zoom to unmute to make a quick comment makes it so much simpler to manage audio.
- Embrace screen sharing for effective collaboration
- Use in-meeting chat as a way to share links or resources
- The free version of Zoom allows you to record calls to your computer, which is helpful if you need to log a record or refer back to anything during the call.
- Make sure you (and your space) look professional – open up the camera on your laptop or switch on your external camera and see what’s visible in the background before the call so you can make any adjustments to lighting, laptop height or add in a free virtual background.
What our Mangoes are saying…
“I find that It’s really important with the whole team working from home to prioritise communication about things other than work. A company that is overly focused on getting down to business on the morning call may be in danger of seeming deaf to its workforce when home is the new office and “home” is so different to everyone in the team. To some, home working may mean glorious isolation and a time to think, to others (especially now) it’s juggling the client to-do list with the demands of young children and others, may not really have a space to call their own in their home. So, as well as communicating effectively through meetings and 1-2-1s, having clarity, setting and managing expectations and encouraging team chats, it’s also really important for your team morale to listen and share stories about life on the home front, how people find working from home, what is “home” to them. Only through understanding and support can you make this work for your team and continue to ensure that they can be productive, have a good work/ life balance and be their best selves.”
– Sarah Curra, CEO
“I’m missing the wider community and broader professional network that I’d usually see at events or around town over coffees and drinks, so I’m connecting with people over whatsapp, forwarding articles, funny memes or just dropping them a line to say hello. It’s actually leading to deeper connection and conversations as people seem to be opening up more, sharing resources and ideas.”
– Andrea Seifert, Associate Director Singapore
“I’m finding shorter, but more frequent meetings more effective and better for my particular team as we like to bounce ideas off each other ‘in person’ on video.”
– Patty Kahn-Saunders, International Director
“I have always been a big believer in face to face interaction, particularly in our industry where communication and relationships are key, however I have really enjoyed working with our individual clients and industry partners to come up with new methods of interaction! Whatsapp brainstorms, sharing trend reports and interesting articles over Microsoft Teams, coffee media meetings via Zoom… I love getting to see the human/personal side of the people I work with and I think it has made us kinder and more supportive to one another. I actually feel far more focused and productive and not having to spend time commuting has enabled me to be more efficient with my time.”
– Charlotte Fox, Senior Account Director UK