By Ryan Bullock
Many companies have scrambled to set up or improve remote work infrastructure amid the COVID 19 pandemic that began in March, and playing catch-up has kept them from realizing remote work’s documented productivity and health benefits: on average, remote employees are productive for 21.9 workdays per month vs. 20.5 for office employees, and remote employees exercise an average of 25 more minutes per week than office employees.
Many are learning the hard way that they must be ready to work remotely before unpredictable events force them to. Preparation involves having the right tools in place, helping your leaders and managers provide structure, and having strong technology teams that will add value to your organization in or outside of a crisis.
Different tools that can improve remote communication
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Part of running a successful remote business is ensuring communication is clear, concise and available. Businesses that have been fortunate to continue operations throughout the pandemic have leaned heavily on video conferencing to keep their organizations connected. The rising use of video conferencing is embodied by Zoom, a popular video conferencing service that jumped from averaging about 10 million daily meeting participants in December 2019 to averaging over 300 million in April 2020. Cisco’s Webex has seen similar demand, hosting 20 billion minutes’ worth of meetings in April.
Combating isolation and reinforcing collaboration through face-to-face interactions is vital to maintaining success as a business during these times. About 36 million Americans live alone and may have little to no social interaction outside of work, so it is important that employers try to foster connectivity between their employees.
Watercooler conversations and quick huddles are no longer available for team members to stay connected and up-to-date on projects. They have been replaced by instant messaging, ideal for quick, one-off questions to keep projects moving. Slack is one of the more popular instant messaging services, reaching 12 million simultaneous users at the end of March, when it was clear that professionals would be working remotely for the foreseeable future. Businesses using Gmail have a full suite of text, voice and video messaging tools available to them as well.
Secondary to communication is the employees’ need for structure which can be undoubtedly challenging in large organizations with multiple divisions.