After working from home during the pandemic, 9 out of 10 employees would now like to see it as a permanent or, at least, a hybrid option. One tool that supports productivity wherever employees engage are virtual communication platforms like Microsoft Teams. So, how do you implement and properly use virtual communication platforms for the long run?
1. Have Various Communication Options
People need different modes of communication during projects. A weekly team meeting, for example, may cover status reports and reveal how the project is progressing. But one-on-one and small group side conversations may be needed to accomplish the work.
Using a communication platform that provides flexible channels of communication and a variety of ways to interact best supports the multi-faceted work of the team. Video conferencing may be ideal for team meetings, but a group chat or direct message might be best in informal situations. Communication preference is another thing to consider—some people may prefer email over speaking directly, for example. And location also plays a factor when coordinating times to connect and collaborate across time zones.
2. Understand Technical Support
No matter which employee communication platform you use, there will always be potential disruptions and technology glitches. And in remote or hybrid work environments, relying on strong IT service desk support is even more essential.
The key thing is getting everyone on the same page so that they know what to do and what to expect. Outlining a protocol for requesting help and managing technical problems with all company software minimizes disruption. An ideal scenario: enable employees to make IT requests through a conversational ticketing system while analysts handle resolutions.
3. Establish Remote Guidelines
Although more employees may be working from home, professionalism is still the unifying standard. A good rule of thumb is to set rules just like you would in the office but cater to issues that may arise from working remotely. For example, while employees may dress more casually at home that does not mean that they show up in pajamas for a board meeting.
You also want to define when and how communication systems are used. Maybe video calls are solely used for group meetings, or they need to be scheduled on a company-wide calendar, monitored and approved. A few things to consider: determine when direct calls can be made to avoid interruptions. Are you allowed to call an employee that works from home but works a different schedule? Should chat functions be available all the time? Or do employees need to indicate availability via messenger setting status?
If so, it would be a good idea to specify what information should travel through each medium. For example, official documents or business-related assets should be shared through secure, shared drives like Microsoft Teams or Sharepoint, while chat could be used for more casual dialogue and quick updates.
4. Use Time Wisely
An average of 15 percent of meeting time is wasted. So, if you have an average of 15 hours per week of meetings, two hours and 15 minutes per week is unproductive. The hope is that flexible communication channels and protocols will create more productive and meaningful use of time.
That starts with something as simple as established agendas and assigned action items as meetings conclude. Even the purpose of an informal meeting and takeaways should be clear to all involved.
5. Offer Training and Accept Feedback
Even if you use a popular platform like Microsoft Teams, there should be an allotted ramp up period. This lead time will help employees who are unfamiliar with the software or who need to adjust to new features and changing interfaces. Offering tutorials or other educational resources can keep everyone up to date.
Unsure of staff’s comfort level? You can take the temperature using surveys or polls. Welcome feedback and suggestions for other ways to streamline current platforms. When you allow employees to participate in a remote or hybrid environment it builds trust and camaraderie, plus it improves the flow of communication.
6. Include Visual Elements
Business communication is often best absorbed using multiple senses. Visual aid illustrations can help people grasp complex information easily and retain attention. Visual elements also show your preparedness, keep you on track and relay messages more clearly. They are highly recommended for virtual meetings and communication!
7. Assign Roles
Assigning and spreading responsibilities gives team members the ability to contribute and feel like they are adding value. Assigning specific roles triggers engagement, even when focused on the mechanics of a meeting, like sending reminders, testing audio and video or taking notes.
Communication Platforms are More Essential Than Ever
Companies are more reliant on communication platforms now that the work paradigm has shifted toward a virtual meeting and collaboration space. The good news is that employees can get help faster when technology issues arise by using Tikit, an IT service desk solution built exclusively for the Microsoft Teams communication and collaboration platform! Try Tikit free in our 14-day trial.