The pandemic pushed billions of professionals to work remotely overnight. As a result, most employees still struggle to have structured and meaningful interactions through workplace technologies. People worldwide started using digital tools for purposes they never had before. Today, there is an ongoing debate about the pros and cons of telecommuting. Small and large organizations are preparing for new virus strains. At the same time, the discussion is still on: is remote work healthy and effective for organizations and people beyond the pandemic?
Consultants like me are supposed to tell you that this is "the future of work, and if you want to attract and retain top talent, you must introduce a hybrid model." And while I agree to a certain extent, there is one action step every company has to take regardless of going fully remote, hybrid, or choosing to be office-based.
In the past decade, technology changed the way organizations and employees get their work done. If your teams use chat or project management tools in the office, you already are a digitally operating business. And chances are, your employees have developed unhealthy online communication habits. This became especially obvious when the pandemic forced everyone to embrace computer-aided tools for collaboration fully.
As a hybrid, remote, or office-based leader, you want to ask yourself:
How much of our daily interactions happen through digital technology, even when in a shared working space?
Do we have a clearly defined and unified company policy that explains how people should use the different tools in our company?
When do we send a direct message in a chat application?
When do we post a comment in a project management tool?
When do we send an email?
When do we call a colleague?
When do we schedule a meeting?
What is a reasonable response time depending on the communication tool?
How do we provide constructive feedback remotely in our day-to-day interactions?
Effective communication is the difference between synergy and chaos in the workplace. Digital communication requires soft and hard skills that your employees can acquire. Working with digital communication tools calls for regular workshops and written guidelines that help foster well-defined healthy habits and best practices that align with your company culture. Help employees build essential digital communication skills by introducing regular training events.
Regardless of your organizational structure, teach everyone to be result and goal-oriented. Establish systems that encourage collaboration while coaching each employee to work well independently, as part of a team, and on an organizational level. Remember to recognize when people build and use these new communication skills. Celebrate the employees that take the time to notice new tool features, share great content, help new coworkers, and make recommendations for improvements.
The future of work is now, and it's digital. Regardless of the model you've decided to implement in your organization, you operate in a digital setting. And to cultivate a thriving organizational culture, you need to focus on helping your employees build and nurture healthy digital communication habits. Only then would you be able to transition into new organizational models successfully.
How to cultivate healthy digital communication habits?
Decide on fundamental principles and company guidelines focusing on the use of digital technology
Ensure that the executive team leads by example.
Change management is a process that can be painful, chaotic, and very uncomfortable. That's why it makes sense to aim for short journeys, like moving from point A to point B, by creating best practices for online communication and collaboration.
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