As the coronavirus continues to force more people to work remotely, many will struggle when they need to accomplish work outside the office. The reality is that the office provides a lot of passive data points about what's going on at work as you can observe behavior.
When you work in different locations, it's easy to feel disconnected and unaware of what's going on. This impacts productivity and morale.
The key to managing this disconnect is to operationalize the way that you communicate as a team and across the company.
You need to think of how you communicate and share information like you might think about operationalizing any other process at work - like onboarding a new employee or handling customer service inquiries.
If you don't create a predictable process, you should not expect predictable outcomes. This applies to how you communicate at work as well.
The existing tools on the market (workplace chat/project management tools) won't be able to help you here.
These tools have laid the "pipes" for efficient workplace communication, but you need "pumps" to regulate the flow of information. Otherwise you get a trickle from one team and an overflowing river of noise from another. This causes people to feel disconnected.
In the rest of this post, I'm going to share some specific playbooks for how you can create repeatable communication habits at work, so you can stay connected and keep moving the ball forward, regardless of where your team is located.
Quick aside: Friday can help you automate the processes I will mention in the rest of this post. We break down the barriers to sharing regular updates at work, making workplace communication more predictable.
The first thing you should to do is implement a weekly update on Friday mornings. This will give you a birds-eye view of what your team(s) have accomplished during the past week and what their priorities are for the week ahead.
Questions you should ask:
Answering these questions can be done outside of a meeting as it's more scalable. Responses can be shared with a team leader or more broadly with the rest of the group. This cadence helps creates accountability and awareness of what others are working on.
For larger companies, each team should run their own status update and then collate the results into a "manager level update." Otherwise the information may be too tactical and irrelevant to the rest of the group.
The next communication cadence you should run is a Monday morning "priorities" cadence. The only question you need to ask is, "what do you plan on accomplishing this week?"
We recommend you collect this information before any staff meetings. It will help the meeting be more efficient, plus writing things down and sharing it with the rest of the group signifies a commitment.
I love this cadence because each employee can "opt-in" to what their output should be. Instead of the team leader mistakenly setting an unrealistic expectation, the employee shares the information and discussion/negotiation can happen after. It creates a more solid foundation of trust.
If your team is interconnected and working on a single project or codebase, you should strongly consider running a daily standup. This creates a faster feedback loop than a weekly update, which can be helpful when the work is interconnected.
You don't need a meeting to run a daily standup. You can collect the information asynchronously and if there are follow-up questions around specific items, you can proceed jump on a call.
If you are running status updates and weekly priorities, you probably only need to do daily standups Tuesday-Thursday.
All the communication habits mentioned involve sharing information up the org chart, but updates need to flow both ways.
That's why we recommend sharing a regular executive (or CEO) update. It should be structured something like the following:
This helps align the organization. You can send this over email or Slack, but there's a lot of noise in someone's inbox and you are competing with dozens (or hundreds) of messages every day.
If you agree with the premise that regular updates are an important way to stay connected at work, you should consider a few other factors:
Sharing updates a few times a week is not the most exciting process and currently requires a lot of manual intervention, which is annoying for everyone involved.
For example, a team leader may set a calendar reminder for their team to fill out a Google doc, which needs to be manually shared over via email or Slack to certain stakeholders. If one of these manual interventions fails (which is frequent, especially with busy team leaders), the process breaks down and updates no longer flow the way they should.
That's why you should automate as much of this process as possible. While you can't automate filling out the update, it's possible to streamline the process.
Filling out a document or an email is not the most exciting part of work. It's even worse if it seems like no one read the update at all. That's why we recommend responding or leaving a comment to encourage people to continue to share updates. This helps people feel like the update was worth it.
One way you can make regular updates more fun is by adding in fun questions, like "who went above and beyond this week?" This can be a good chance to learn about how others have gone the extra mile.
Friday can help you easily create the communication habits mentioned above in minutes. You can see how this works in the video below: