Following the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing has driven businesses around the globe to embrace remote working policies that are frequently unfamiliar within their own company culture organizations.
As lockdown orders steadily ease and businesses gradually re-open, social distancing has become the new norm to work in safe conditions. But let's face it: promoting healthy company communications is hard with social distancing.
Maintaining the usual level of collaboration between workers can prove very challenging. Simply enforcing social distancing measures can negatively impact your business productivity, employee motivation, or even workplace happiness altogether.
In this article, we take a look at different approaches to encourage workplace communication when social distancing in office.
4 tips to encourage workplace communication while social distancing
1. Promote workplace safety
Most workplaces have not been set up to keep people 2 meters apart. The reality of things is that most businesses actually use most of the space they have and try to fit in the maximum number of workers possible (think cubicles).
Workplace safety directly affects productivity and can considerably impact workplace morale. If your social distancing measures have not been properly planned beforehand, chances are your employees may not perform to their full potential.
In most cases, you will need to work out different shifts to avoid your workplace from being overcrowded while social distancing measures are being enforced. Breaking down shifts into a ‘safe’ number of employees can be very challenging if you manage a workforce made up of hundreds of individuals.
You can simplify and automate this whole operation by making use of an employee scheduling software. Employee scheduling apps often come packed with a set of features that can significantly improve your HR department’s day to day management and enables you to make quick decisions based on real-time data. They often have communication and collaboration tools incorporated as well so they help in that department too.
2. Avoid communication overload
When social distancing at the workplace, effectively communicating is vital. Simply bombarding your team with emails every time you get the next good idea is not the best way forward. An overflowing email inbox can often demotivate employees and affect your workplace happiness.
In the long run, this can dampen your productivity, especially for those who are "slower" to absorb information or are less tech-savvy. The last thing you want is having workers tuning out of this communication channel.
You need to have a game plan ready: prioritize key communications such as company policies or status updates, instead of flat emails reminding workers to keep the door closed.
This way, your message will cut through the noise and potentially retain the collective consciousness of the recipients. Additionally, leave the door open for workers to get in touch with you on a personal level - many may feel uneasy voicing their opinions or concerns on a channel where others are able to see or read their comments.
3. Provide adequate collaboration tools and time to adjust
Working out different shifts and handling remote workers often requires your workforce to adapt to the situation. In most cases, workers need to adjust to the inability to directly walk over to a colleague for collaboration. It is essential you allow your employees to settle and gradually absorb the social distancing measures in place - adaptation time may vary based on different factors, but this remains an important component for your business continuity.
Provide adequate collaboration tools to make things as easy as possible for everyone. Instant messaging apps, such as Slack, or video conferencing tools such as Zoom can significantly help streamline the internal communication of your team.
Also, if your business relies on document sharing, set up a proper cloud infrastructure (such as Dropbox) as this will allow remote collaboration a breeze. If you do not currently use these technologies and do not have a dedicated in-house IT team, be sure to get help from agencies to implement and configure this software or apps.
Also read: 22 Must-Have Tools for Remote Workers
4. Encourage knowledge sharing and provide training
If you have recently implemented collaboration technologies following the COVID-19 outbreak, there is a chance that not all of your workers are at ease using these tools. Leaving employees to ‘figure it out’ themselves is never a good strategy: this may impede growth and productivity while leaving the door open for errors.
Encourage those who already know how to use these tools to their maximum potential to regularly share best practices with others. Most collaboration software provides tutorials and training as part of their packages. Make sure you share the links to these resources with your team and encourage them to go through all the guides available.
Ultimately, encourage your workforce to share their feedback on any new technology being used and act accordingly; if the vast majority of your employees are reporting negative feedback on a tool, you may need to look at other alternatives.
Wrapping It Up
Social distancing will most likely be in force for an unforecastable number of months and adjusting to this change is essential for all businesses. While the coronavirus pandemic may have had a drastic impact on business performance, it has potentially pushed technology adoption by over a decade. At the end of the day, adapting to the situation can strengthen the workplace culture and take the employee experience to a whole new level.