Now that employees have grown used to working remotely, they’ve realized they’re missing a simple thing they took for granted before the pandemic: daily interactions with colleagues. Without those informal exchanges, they feel less connected and sometimes even stuck. 

Who can help employees with this problem? Internal communicators, of course! 

Here are five strategies to break though the working-from-home-alone conundrum. The result? Your communication program will create a collection of moments designed to help employees form relationships and feel part of something bigger. 

1. Plan unscripted moments

Find opportunities to embed casual conversations across your communication channels, such as a live chat with a leader, threads devoted to brainstorms or Q&A, and personal/fun stuff (for example, a discussion board for the book club). 

2. Help employees build new interpersonal communication skills

New skills are required to help employees to communicate differently in our changed digital environment. Skills development could take the form of quick tips—delivered by email or as a post/video on the intranet. Here are a few examples of helpful tips to share with employees: 

  • When you’re stuck with a project, reach out to your colleagues. A five-minute conversation can go a long way.
  • Adopt a buddy to keep you honest. Connect at the beginning of the week about your deadlines, then check on each other.
  • Provide updates, so your colleagues (and manager) know what you’re working on.

Another idea is to partner with HR on a series of 30-minute web-based workshops designed to set expectations and share best practices. 

3. Work with managers

Encourage managers to increase their visibility. While increasing face time with employees is important, helping managers set the stage for interactions that will help employees foster relationships. 

Interaction is the magical moment when employees ask questions and get immediate, authentic responses. When managers ask employees for their input to solve a challenge or create something new. And when managers ask for feedback: How am I doing?

Of course, managers will need resources to help them deliver both parts of the equation: visibility and interaction. For example, one-page how-to guides: How to run a brainstorm in a web-based meeting or The best way to answer questions on a sensitive topic.

4. Partner with IT 

Ensure you have the right platforms in place—from Slack and Teams to Trello and Asana. And help employees understand how and when to use them.

Try new tools for web-based meetings that have hit the marketplace recently. For example, Mural replicates the art of sticky-note collaboration. Set up test groups, try new tools and gather feedback.

5. Assess

Run a few focus groups or a pulse survey to ask employees how they’re doing: Which communication tools are most helpful? What do they miss most about the workplace? What should we do differently to improve communication and encourage more interaction?

 

Want to learn more about building community? Check out Chapter 8 in our new book, What’s next: 9 ways to reinvent employee communication.

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