The modern workplace is no longer a 9-to-5. Millennials don’t want it, and employers are enticed to change their models based on a growing number of studies citing that employee productivity is on the rise when provided with flexible work hours and schedules. After all, we are always connected (whether we like it or not), and business is happening at all hours of the day, in multiple time zones.
But with the flexibility comes challenges with co-worker communication. We are no longer walking down the hall to pop our head into someone’s office when we have a question or having regular dialogues around the water cooler. This reduced inter-office face time has forced the workplace dialogue to happen outside the norm and has created a dependence on technology to keep communication in check.
But it’s not only remote working situations that have added to this workplace disconnect. The ever-growing global marketplace has resulted in an increase in business travel and time out of the office has become valuable for business growth and development.
Regardless of advancements in virtual meeting technology, nothing compares to in-person meetings — and our global business, like so many others, requires constant travel. Here are some quick tips to prevent communication breakdowns with a remote team and how they can subsequently get you ahead.
1. Provide Unsolicited Updates
Give updates to your boss or team leader without having to be asked for them. I spend a majority of my weekdays on the road in back-to-back meetings (often in significantly different time zones), so I depend on my team to keep me posted on what is going on at the home office.
A quick recap of their day and updates on client ongoings goes a long way. It saves myself the hassle looking for answers late at night and reduces frustration and any surprises, which is beneficial for us all. But keep the updates short and to the point — bullet points suffice.
2. Use Shared Platforms
Programs such a HubSpot, Salesforce and Google Drive are optimal platforms for making sure the team is working from the absolute latest, live data — no matter where in the world they are. Keep your data logged and share documents and spreadsheets that keep the team up to speed on your projects. Apps are available for most data sharing programs so you can update your systems on the go.
There is no excuse for the entire team to not have the latest information at all times. Because of our constant connectivity, we are all checking our email and working at unconventional hours (the new “norm”), and I know my team doesn’t appreciate midnight texts asking for information that can be readily available on a shared platform.
3. Get Notified And Get Together
Phone apps are constantly trying to grab our attention with push notifications (if you haven’t yet shut them all off!). Shift those notifications from a distraction to a helpful hint or nudge to make your workflow more efficient by setting calendar notifications or alerts to touch base with your team or manager as often as needed. FaceTime, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting — whichever platform you use, use it often.
Our team is constantly in motion, and when we started “work from wherever Fridays” last year, the schedules became even more varied. If your team is in the same city, set a time on the calendar to get together for a quick coffee outside of the office to get the creative juices flowing. These are always ideal opportunities to talk about any roadblocks you might be facing and finding a solution together before it becomes a burden.
Each team leader in our agency is usually working on separate projects, with no overlap with one another and — more often than not — is locked into their computer with headphones on. Taking a step away from the screen to gain some perspective from someone on the outside may give you the boost you need. Lose the ego here, and be open with your hurdles.
At a fast-paced agency with so many clients and moving parts, the days tend to go by quickly (hence the daily question, “How is it already 5 p.m.?!”). If you don’t set aside the time on your calendar in advance, these communication check-ins won’t happen.
You can never over-communicate with your team, your boss or your clients — that is often what sets you apart from your co-workers and your firm apart from the competition. The complaint I hear most often when we are being interviewed as a company is that the previous firm and account managers lacked communication, and in this business, that is the kiss of death.