So your office has either started to shut down or are talking about reducing in-person operations because of COVID-19. Excellent citizenship, very wise—and also deeply concerning. How are you going to keep business running as normal? How can you keep communications active, collaboration moving, and spirits up when everyone’s working from home?
Whether you’re an executive, in corporate communications, or in IT, you’ve probably worried a lot in the last couple weeks about what you’re going to do if you have to close the office. It’s time to make a plan for how your company is going to communicate if you have to go virtual because of Coronavirus.
Assess: What Are Your Company’s Communication and Working Styles?
Every company has different needs, and just because someone else needs a specific solution doesn’t mean you do. It’s time to get realistic about what you actually need to keep doing business as usual.
There are a lot of ways for companies to communicate in person. How many of these are you going to need to replace?
- Formal all-hands or all-team in-person announcements
- Informal all-hands or all-team socializing
- Daily standing or scrum meetings
- Formal scheduled sit-down meetings with guest lists and agendas
- Informal, let’s-grab-a-conference-room meetings
- Leaning over the cubicle wall or huddling around the coffeemaker
- Site visits with clients or vendors
- Short check ins with clients or vendors
Plan: Building a More Remote-Friendly (or Friendly Remote) Workplace, Fast
You’re probably also already doing a bunch of virtual communication as it is. You’re definitely doing email, and probably some kind of internal messaging like Microsoft Teams. You may be doing more: intranet, social business software, webcasts, podcasts, an internal video portal. Some of your team members may even already be partially or fully remote. How do you scale up, fast?
For a full move to a remote workplace, extensive planning and culture shift will be necessary. But that’s not what we’re talking about right this moment, is it? There will be time for sweeping policy changes later but right now you need a way to make sure that Wednesday’s critical meeting still happens even though half the participants are locked their separate homes across northern Italy.
So how can we replace some of the in-person communications we’re losing?
Large Scale Meetings
For really big meetings, where one or two people talk to a large audience, the obvious solution is webcasting. This could be a formal, full production event with camera crews and a full tech team. But it doesn’t have to be, and if your area is under quarantine from Coronavirus, it probably shouldn’t be. Self-serve webcasting can be run straight from the desktop. You can do Q&A and take polls, for some interactivity. It’s an easy way to get everyone on the same page without getting anyone in the same room.
Small Group Meetings
For small groups, whether that’s a one-off meeting or a recurring one, virtual meeting spaces are ideal. You can still see everyone’s face, plus it’s easy to share screens, videos, whiteboards, annotations, notes, and more. You can breakout into smaller groups within the meeting and reconvene with the larger group. For recurring meetings, a persistent room lets you leave recordings and notes from previous sessions, so you can pick up where you left off. Plus, you get the advantages of video: recordings to use or refer back to in the future, and no need to gather people from far-flung locations.
Personalized Video Messages
One of the big problems with working remotely is isolation. Using more video across all communications helps people feel like they’re still in contact with coworkers instead of talking to faceless names. Even outside of live video chats, try using video emails for more personalized asynchronous communications.
Video on Demand
Don’t discount the usefulness of video on demand! Leaving videos for each other on the intranet is still a friendly way to keep everyone in the loop.
Deploy: Building a More Remote-Friendly Office
In the next few weeks, you’re likely to grab whatever you can, however you can. See if you can repurpose or extend tools you already use, uploading video to your existing intranet and finding ways to integrate more powerful functions with your existing video conferencing tools.
If the Coronavirus/COVID-19 situation continues to extend for a while, as the experience of some of the earliest hit cities suggests, you’re going to want to start making some more formal plans.
- Make sure your employees all have devices capable of watching and creating video from home.
- Let your employees know what the plan is as soon as you’ve got one; even letting them know you’re working on something can help ease anxiety.
- Give your employees direction as to where, when, and how it’s appropriate to create and share video. Make sure they understand security concerns.
- Relax the formality a little. Professionalism is important; however, everyone understands that this is an unusual situation. Everything doesn’t have to be launched at once; concentrate on the most important and work your way through. It’s more important that your communications are available than they be perfectly polished.
Ready to go virtual?