Managerial communication: knowing how to turn the corner on telework

While countries are lifting one after the other the constraints of confinement, a year of crisis has profoundly changed the relationship of employees to work and to their company.

According to a study by NoCom and IFOP: with the distance linked to teleworking, one would have thought that the links between employees would have been weakened. On the contrary, 80% of employees say they are satisfied with their professional situation (6 points more than before the crisis) and 60% think that this difficult year has strengthened their attachment to the company, as if the distance had produced a lack. Moreover, 81% of employees are even ready to say that they love their company and consider that it has shown a great capacity to adapt.

In the end, it can be said that the image of the private sector, which has mobilized a great deal, has been strengthened.

The view of the social role of the company is changing. Before the crisis, we were already talking about the raison d’être of companies, their social and environmental role. The crisis has reinforced this dynamic, as 87% of employees believe that beyond its economic activity, the company plays a broader role in society. This is 11 points more than before the crisis.

However, if teleworking is popular (84% of employees consider it positive), many are aware that it can pose problems, especially since not all jobs are suitable for it in the same way. 70% of graduates and senior managers complain about a feeling of loss of ties and even isolation.

It is therefore necessary to find a new balance and managerial communication is the key.

The manager has to negotiate the shift from confinement by anticipating the risks linked to telework.

Here are some of the solutions that the manager, through his communication, helped by professionals, will be able to apply to mitigate the risks of loss of team cohesion, efficiency or commitment that he will face, sometimes even suddenly.

Drive and nurture team cohesion

Feeling connected to your team is essential for everyone. This not only feeds the feeling of belonging to a group, but also that of psychological security, a crucial factor in performance according to the study conducted by Google in 2015.

While there is no magic formula for cultivating it, many factors play a role in its development. Among these are regular exchanges between colleagues, awareness of one’s contribution to the objectives or informal get-togethers during lunches, for example.

All these elements can be undermined by telecommuting or the adoption of a rhythm alternating between office and home office. But it is quite possible to instill and maintain a collective dynamic in these new conditions.

Geographical distance can even prove to be a real vector of innovation in terms of organization and animation of team life.

The objective is therefore to nurture team life from a distance and to create moments of exchange in the office. Facilitating team life is an essential element in maintaining the collective dynamic. Rather than an obstacle, telecommuting is a way to re-invent interactions and to discover each other in a new light.

Managers, for example, propose convivial moments to your teammates. Don’t hesitate to ask for their ideas, in order to set up activities that everyone can enjoy.

For example, you can organize :

  • coffee, lunch or virtual happy hour. You can also plan to have a specific menu delivered to your colleagues’ homes for themed lunches, or propose themed videoconferences where everyone prepares to present their idea/experience on the theme.
  • Challenges: elect the most beautiful photo in your home office, challenge your colleagues.
  • games: treasure hunts, riddles, associate an anecdote with the right colleague…
  • activities led by your employees, such as a cooking or dancing class.

Avoiding the erosion of efficiency due to telecommuting

Telecommuting has many benefits but also several challenges to overcome, especially in terms of efficiency. Among those that are frequently mentioned are the distribution of roles, the clarification of objectives, the trust given to one’s teams, the identification of employees in difficulty. These pitfalls are often related to organizational issues, priorities, work overload or misunderstanding of the messages transmitted.

You should make an effort to be as clear as possible in your exchanges. Don’t hesitate to provide contextual information to situate your employees’ actions and support your requests.

Also, provide feedback to engage your teammates. This will remove many doubts and reinforce mutual trust.

The risk of erosion of efficiency often comes from a drop in morale or motivation of employees, which must be anticipated. Beforehand, it is necessary to create trust to ensure an exchange in a climate conducive to dialogue.

Plan individual meetings from time to time, to have more in-depth and confidential discussions. This is an opportunity to ensure that everyone is doing well, has a suitable work space at home, knows their priorities and has an appropriate workload.

Feeling close to your team, and providing opportunities to voice concerns, is essential to team fitness.

Physically distant from each other, it’s more important than ever to be humane in order to make screen-based relationships warmer.

Listen to your team members. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they’re doing, what’s working for them, what’s not working for them, what they need.

Be caring and empathetic.

Also, since virtual interactions don’t capture all the subtleties of non-verbal communication, such as a smile or a shrug, everything must be said or written down. Morale is seen more than heard.

Team effectiveness is also managed by determining deliverables and methods. The objectives must be qualitative and not only quantitative; give the collaborator the means to appropriate his mission and help him in his time management, so that he is satisfied with his efficiency and this whatever the distractions that he will undergo or that he will allow himself.

Organize meeting times and spaces at work

Furthermore, if your team alternates between telecommuting and being in the office, you can map out the places and dates where everyone will be working during the week, like in a shared calendar for example. This way, everyone will know when they will be able to physically see their colleagues.

Pace the week with exchange times: Set up regular brief team meetings to listen to your collaborators, share their mission of the day in turn and debrief their recent achievements in front of the team while reminding them of the team’s global missions.

You can congratulate and thank your employees for their contribution to a more global achievement by showing them the ambitions and results.

To maintain and develop commitment, let’s go beyond the To-Do lists

Understanding, owning and developing the company’s values are vital to engaging your teams and ensuring their support and motivation. At a distance, without exchange or action, the sense of belonging can become distorted.

To understand these corporate values and to live them, they must be clearly stated, discussed, and demonstrated in your daily work life to become a living witness to them.

The manager will strive to give meaning to each task by reminding the company’s mission and the way his team contributes to it every day.

The manager and the team will agree on the ultimate goal of their mission, analyze the why?

As Simon Sinek explains with his famous formula “Start with why”, a team is a collective gathered around a common goal. Employees expect to know where you are going, why you are going there, and how you are going there.

Carrying the image of your company beyond your own job is essential, especially for brand ambassadors (sales people, communicators, marketers…) because they are not only selling a know-how, but also a corporate culture.

This culture is not developed by reading brochures or corporate speeches, but by debating ideas. It is around the coffee machine, in informal face-to-face exchanges that the next idea comes, that the project matures.

Less physical interaction between employees means less exchange of ideas.

By cultivating this knowledge of the ultimate ambition of the project the team is working on, how it contributes to transforming the company, the life of its customer or the future of its business, the manager will be able to ensure a continued commitment.

Create opportunities for debates and contradictory exchanges. Beforehand, seek out the opinions of your employees, some of whom are in favor of the project, others who are against it, or who have no opinion.

This way, you can show how each person will contribute to the team’s progress and the company’s vision. Not only will you reinforce their sense of purpose, but you’ll also create more buy-in for the projects.

Here are a few examples of telecommuting challenges that well managed communication will turn into opportunities.

Considering the potential downsides of teleworking is essential, because according to the study mentioned in the introduction, at least half of all employees are thinking about changing their working life.

The employers who will retain their employees will be those who have managed to organize work differently while maintaining the bonds of the team: this is the challenge of the new telework agreements being negotiated in most companies.

Do you have all the keys to managerial communication to strengthen your team cohesion?

Communication is the best ally for strategists: to achieve this, managers need professional support. Internal communicators can be the guarantors of the corporate culture, of its expression, of its influence, of its embodiment by the employees but also by the customers and partners of your company.

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