Remote work collaborations happen across a myriad of digital communication tools. Each tool has its specific features. You can correlate these to the different communication applications you use every day for personal communication, such as – WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Snapchat, and Telegram. All of them fulfill the united goal of online communication. Yet, they have various features and thus, protocols and the same applies to remote work communication applications.
Communication tools dedicated to remote work collaborations are very fragmented; ergo they necessitate the streamlining of remote work communication activities. Everyone must be on the same page about the conveyed messages; only then can you perform what is expected from you with efficacy.
You can be visible, transparent, and efficient while communicating by establishing some basic communication protocols and rules of engagement.
Protocols that you can implement when building remote work communication structures
1. Create, follow, and maintain tool etiquette, renewing and updating it when necessary
It’s important to clearly define remote work communication protocols that encompass different communication tools and equip employees with the dos and don’ts – for example, employees should know when they should communicate via email, MS Teams, and other telecommunication applications.
As a fully remote company, Genashtim prepares new employees with remote tools etiquette via Virtual Office Training (VOT). The training defines remote work communication procedures that are unique to Genashtim as a fully remote company. Employees are informed to set their workdays, work hours, and emergency contact numbers lest they are offline, and when a co-worker needs them urgently. This information mimics on-site office etiquette, whereby your presence, absence, and work hours are explicit. You can call it “a remote replication of conventional office.”
2. Be aware of your co-workers’ available hours
When you are aware of your co-workers’ available hours, especially if they work in different time zones, it will be more convenient for you to align workflows to tally with their work hours.
Since remote work is all about flexibility and better work-life balance, your co-workers’ available hours can be erratic. So, a communication protocol requires you to inform your team/department that you are taking a break and that you will be back at a certain time will help your co-workers to align their work with your brief absence.
Setting available hours is especially important for synchronous communication, such as meetings and catchups. And of course, small adjustments are a must – if your normal lunch break is at 1 pm, and your team sets a meeting at 1 pm and its duration is approximately 10 minutes, you can have your lunch before the meeting or after. Use your discretion to manage your time.
3. Signal your co-workers
You can overcommunicate your availability by using visual cues on your message status. You can signal if you will “Be right back,” if you are going away to recharge. If you are in the middle of deep work or attending a meeting, you can signal, “Do not disturb/Busy.”
Genashtim uses MS Teams as the company’s primary communication channel and its signaling feature is straightforward. Most of all, it’s helpful. However, if signaling isn’t sufficient, you ought to inform your team/department when you are leaving work to run errands or take a break.
4. Advertise your leave
Inform your team/department about your out-of-office schedule. This is critical in a remote work setting because it allows your co-workers to readjust schedules and resources as needed and coordinate team efforts. Naming the person who can fill in for you during your leave, allows them to step in and fill in the workflow gaps. It’s about keeping the work wheel turning despite your absence, especially if there are deadlines to meet.
5. Define out-of-hours communications
Productivity trumps presenteeism in the remote work realm. However, since remote work often means more access to work, sometimes, 24/7 access, employees may feel obligated to work when they are supposed to rest and recharge, leading to employee burnout. Having a “right to disconnect” policy helps avoid employee burnout – the policy should define requests out of work hours, working on vacations, and responding to late-night emails. Be mindful that your right to disconnect policy doesn’t compromise flexible work which is one of the main criteria and attractions of remote work. That’s why each company should outline a right to disconnect policy that is unique to the company’s remote work ethos and culture.
Genashtim, for example, came up with a “Take Some” policy. Popularized by the popular OTT platform, Netflix. Genashtim created a customized right to disconnect policy in line with the 100% remote company’s staff’s needs – 60% of Genashtim’s staff members are disabled and may need to take frequent breaks and leaves due to their physical conditions.
Genashtim’s Take Some policy has company trust and staff discretion at its core. The onus is on the employee to complete their tasks within deadlines and carry out their responsibilities to the tee. A Genashtim employee can do minor tasks or respond to an email from a client during their leave or week off – this embodies the trust that Genashtim has in its employees and the employees’ discretion. It’s neither complete detachment from work nor complete attachment to work when a Genashtim employee is out-of-work hours. It’s also a norm at Genashtim for employees to share their contact number, availability details, and their timings with their team members so that urgent matters can be tended to. Of course, there are exceptions for employees who are ill or going to an area where the internet connection is unstable.
6. Be punctual
Punctuality is the best policy in the remote work realm, particularly for meetings. If you will be late, inform the meeting attendees beforehand. If you can’t attend a meeting at a given time, ask if the expected meeting attendees can reschedule the meeting.
7. Hold virtual lunches with your team, department, and inter-departmental members
Virtual get-togethers strengthen your relationships and bonds with your remote co-workers. Fun activities can be conducted during these virtual meetings which pave the way for you to get to know your co-workers better. Casual social conversations during virtual lunches can alleviate work stress and engender diversions. Such virtual get-togethers also provide a safe space to share issues you face at work and how the workweek is treating you. The chief of the meeting can then escalate your issues with work to the management level and get them sorted out.
Virtual lunches schedules can vary from weekly to bi-weekly, and monthly.
8. Issue a monthly internal newsletter
Monthly company newsletter editions go a long way in informing employees about the remote company’s growth, recent projects, and communicating messages from the company’s CEO, managers, and staff.
Genashtim started issuing internal newsletters in February 2022. Each edition is emailed to the staff every month. The newsletter editions feature the CEO of Genashtim posting a text and a YouTube video-based update. The staff members contribute their own experiences, convictions, philosophy, and knowledge as feature articles.
All employees at Genashtim are requested to read and like the monthly articles. Commenting is also encouraged so that interactions can take place.
Communication is the lifeblood of a remote organization. Without remote work communication protocols in place, a remote company cannot operate at its optimal capacity.
Your remote company is unlike any other remote company in the world. So, you can only derive inspiration from a particular company’s remote communication protocols, not copy them to the dot. You will need to readjust the protocols to suit your remote company’s distinct organizational culture.
Remember to always update and upgrade your remote communication protocols as advancements in telecommunication technology keep happening and you must keep up with them.
Last but not least, ensure that your remote workers understand the set of communication protocols and follow them through.