Office communications: Get a new groove


March 15. New hires aren’t the only ones who don’t know a lot about their organizational teams today. As doors open to welcome people back to work in person, much has changed after 20+ months of working remotely.  We need fresh ways to get our groove back. Why?

• People we used to work with retired or left.

• Team members changed roles and responsibilities.

• The go-to people—for technical assistance, information, supplies—are no longer available.

• Team members are working in-person, hybrid, fully remote, or on flextime.

Who’s on first?

Rosters of people’s names, specific titles, and outlines of their responsibilities are needed. A chart of when people are at work or off work, and if they are working hybrid, flextime, or in-person, must be easily accessible and accurate. The roster also needs to identify what communication method is best for each given where they are working from. Yes, this sounds like a bit of a Rubik’s Cube, but it is needed.

Everyone should be given formal time each week to hold structured chat sessions with other team members (random or planned, individual or in groups) so they can get to know each other.

Where are the guiding lights?

Putting the mission and values of the company displayed on screens, memo headers or footers, meeting agendas, and signature lines can keep them top of mind. And the roster of people—Who’s on First, haha—should include a section for “special expertise” so those who need their assistance can easily reach them.

How do you communicate?

Structured communication plans are more important than ever. It is the responsibility of leaders to create and follow a clear plan for:

• Daily task-related assignments,

• Formal information needed by everyone,

• Feedback from employees to managers and other team members, and

• Department and committee meeting dates.

A plan infers it must have specific cycle times set for when these will be sent out, in which medium, by whom, and when everyone who is responsible for having read them, has done so. Fractionalized communications piece-meal throughout the day when everyone is in person can often be easily accommodated, but in today’s work structure a more standardized approach—which requires managers and leaders to plan thoughtfully— is going to help everyone receive critical information.

Where is the support?

Help keep everyone working.

A rotating rank-order list of on-call managers and support roles is needed. It is frustrating and slows productivity knowing what you need but not being able to locate the person who you need assistance from.

How can managers empower their team?

Be methodical in holding conversations with each team member. Be the barrier-remover and cheerleader. Ask some open-ended questions. Then be an excellent listener. Give them the resources, guidance, and authority to do their job once you know they see a clear path.

How can everyone remain accountable?

Be specific in the process of setting up customized work arrangements: What work, how, by what date, are just the start. Also include clear times and ways you and they will communicate updates, questions, responses, and check-ins with each other. Be very clear of when each other is “off-duty” to avoid misunderstandings, unexpected overtime, and burnout.

How to maintain motivation

Formalized quiet time during work weeks for focusing on complex problems, and policies for down time for self-care and quality of life will help everyone remain creative, stay healthy, enjoy work-life balance, and be fresh enough to keep working in their best groove.

Cheryl Kane, MBA, PHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a strategic business consultant, sales trainer, & professional speaker specializing in problem solving and service quality. Email her at: [email protected]


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