When companies start with home office (employees work with the appropriate software from their private or work computer at home), your communication as a manager suddenly has a completely different basis. Management communication has to adapt to this situation: a different style of communication is required in home office mode: boss attitudes are passé in this environment. But it is all the more important to establish rules and communicate. Transparency and credibility apply more than ever before for a manager. However, there are also opportunities to initiate a completely new culture – if you think hard enough about which one it should be.
You are now working new or increasingly with remote working: that means that your employees are not at home, but work from home. IT access has been clarified.
What does this mean for your communication with “your people”? Very special aspects need to be taken into account here, because everything is now different.
I would like to convey this to you using 4 dimensions:
Communication: communicating expectations and rules
- First of all, there’s nobody left. Just imagine what will be omitted: There will be no “I’ll go and ask”, no meeting at the coffee machine, no asking how the bike trip was on the weekend, no: “I’ll ask at the reception”, no walking through the corridors, no waving, nodding, smiling, no “following a spontaneous idea”. This means that your information about the people under your control will be different.
- Who does what: Let us assume that it is reasonably clear who does what. Nevertheless, it needs questioning and exchange. Because the daily meetings, the bilateral talks are cancelled, the meetings etc. are not held. Your communication is therefore all the more important and especially how you do it.
- Therefore, show presence, but also coordinate your communication (by e-mail, telephone or otherwise) with HR and other communication channels of the company. This means that you should refer to them if necessary – do not create contradictions. But continue your way of living leadership. Just: pay attention to your tone. Your employees are in the home office: you don’t want to hear a harsh tone; you have less distance from the office at home when the office is at home. So communicate with respect for the privacy of your employees. Use a businesslike tone; avoid – the more classic and traditional your company is, the more you avoid supposedly jovial and casual allusions such as “How do you work with your feet on the table” and the like. This is none of your business, remote working also means having confidence that the people working there are working. How they do this is up to them. So pay attention to your tone.
- Enquiring instead of control. If you have questions or are impatient to know what results are available somewhere, ask openly. “How far along are you?”, “When do you expect to see results” and the like. No checking, no “I told you so.” It’s not what you say, but how you say it.
- Create rules early on. What do you expect from someone? Who should connect with whom – virtually – and how ? Define the free spaces. But do not go into details about how someone has to do the work: The “when” – if that freedom is possible – is not important. Neither does the location – balconies or study – unless this plays a role in terms of IT and data security or is not desirable for other compliance reasons. But communicate this transparently, because these are your expectations.
- Make it clear how the working time is recorded. Refer to existing rules and justify any deviations. Don’t be petty; nobody should have to answer for going to the coffee machine in the kitchen. If you feel anxious that the company might be “cheated”, take a step back and focus on results. Permanent discomfort belongs in bilateral, physical conversations, for example in feedback talks. Avoid unequal treatment or give transparent reasons for it.
- Make sure that it is clear where IT problems are solved; who is the contact person.
Communicate the Big Picture
- At what cadence do you exchange results? In particular, provide transparent information on how long – due to the crisis – work is carried out from the home office. When you decide whether or not to continue with the home office. In particular, inform them how you intend to provide information.
- Evaluate the experience when you are new to home office. Involve your employees and evaluate the experience together. Prepare a planned approach to your information practice (what you pass on when and how, who needs what) and stick to it.
- Inform who is doing what, so that no confusion arises. If you have common social media communication channels, communicate this there. But pay attention to your tone. In social media tools such as slack, jive etc. and their “timelines”, there is a peer-to-peer tone; you cannot appear here with a “boss / boss” note. That would be inappropriate like sneakers in a ballroom.
- Note that Home Office may whet your appetite for more. Let us know when the company will examine whether – if not yet the case – Home Office will be continued and in what form. It also applies here: Transparency and credibility are of the highest priority.
If you want to introduce something new
- If Remote Office is new to you, you have the chance to initiate a cultural change. In many places, there was previously a culture that distrusted home office. But now you are starting to do so. Therefore, consider the culture that has been used in your company up to now. Allowing home office is a first step towards change, whether you like it or not. You now have the chance to consider whether this actually meets your requirements for a good culture. With a carefully curated home office practice, you are beginning to herald a new culture that will change permanently. Provided you act credibly and consistently. That’s why you should also make planned and strategic considerations about your communication and your management concept.
- Find out how home office is practised in other companies and what experiences are made with it. Share experiences honestly in the right place and in the right form. If necessary, create containers such as weekly retrospectives.
- Get an idea – literally a visualization – of the communication channels they use and in which you yourself are involved and what cadences there are. On this basis, set up your own practice; visualise it; create a simple model. In this way you can use the image of how you work – remotely with your employees.
Knowledge management and innovation
- If nobody can ask anyone, it is all the more important to know where knowledge, where information can be obtained and found. Internal company platforms such as intranet, database etc. must be used. This is one of the expectations and this is what you have to communicate.
- You may know the “Google practice” 20:80. Employees “may” use a day off for their own projects. Such practices are now commonplace in organizations that are committed to NEW WORK and that (must) focus on innovation. Wouldn’t it be a good idea for your employees to use their prescribed “free” time or home office to think about some things? Of course, the home office can put everyone’s perception of their own working environment in a new light. This can also be a chance to see previously unnoticed things in a new light.
- A change and innovation towards home office can also mean the first bang for the buck to focus more strongly on strategy again. Organize a physical meeting as soon as possible, together with the evaluation and exchange of experiences with Home Office. But avoid a “bossy attitude” – this is preventing. If you use streaming on social media channels: let them run through, do not take any corrective influence. You now have the chance to let things happen in a new culture, to wait and see “what happens”.
You see, many chances – good luck!