Given the rise of remote work, companies are struggling more than ever to communicate effectively.
And while some teams feel like they’re totally in the dark, others are stuck staring at Slack channels or Zoom calls instead of actually working.
And that’s exactly why you need to rethink your internal communication strategy.
Listen, communication influences everything from productivity and performance to workplace stress and beyond. Comms should empower your team, not bog them down.
In this guide, we’ll cover five actionable tips and internal communications examples that can help.
1. Establish processes and expectations when it comes to communication
First thing’s first: you can’t treat messaging and collaboration like a free-for-all.
Workers shouldn’t spend all day hovering over their chat apps or inboxes “just because.” Sure, you shouldn’t have to wait hours (or days) to receive an update or answer to a question.
But on the flip side, requiring employees to always be “on” can be daunting for them. This is especially true if you’re working with distributed workers, contractors, or freelancers.
Without establishing expectations, you’re basically setting up your team for burnout. This includes:
How often your team needs to communicate
Daily stand-ups. Weekly check-ins. Monthly progress reports.
All of the above are totally fair game and there is no “one size fits all” approach to how often teams need to touch base. What matters is that you and your colleagues are able to plan ahead for such events.
Food for thought: 42% of remote workers say they’re more productive when they’re given time to work uninterrupted. Events such as chat check-ins and video meetings are obviously a must-do for modern teams, but they shouldn’t get in the way of letting your colleagues do their best work.
This speaks to the importance of having both individual and shared schedules among your team. Doing so ensures that your teammates can block off the time needed for any given task and nobody is stepping on anyone’s toes schedule-wise.
With tools like Teamwork, you can also create recurring events (such as stand-ups or meetings) to create a sense of consistency and avoid annoying scheduling “surprises.”
Additionally, establishing policies for check-ins and different meeting types is a smart move. For example, a company might implement policies such as:
- “Meetings must be scheduled at least 72 hours in advance…”
- “Team emails should be responded to within one business day…”
- “Teammates should respond to direct @mentions in Teamwork within 24 hours…”
When to keep comms formal (versus informal)
What internal communication looks like in terms of tone varies from business to business.
Many teams use spaces such as their Slack channels as a place to get a bit informal, drop some memes, and let loose a bit. Meanwhile, company-wide emails or Kanban board updates might be a bit more “suit and tie.”
Keeping your communication formal versus informal largely depends on your company culture. That said, giving your colleagues a place to drop the business-speak is often a welcome break and a subtle way to bring people together.
It’s all about keeping close to one theme. You really start to confuse your team if you demand one tone vs. another across different tools.
Where you document progress and milestones
Arguably one of the most important pieces of your internal communications strategy is keeping folks updated on the progress of any given project.
This is where a Kanban board really comes in handy. Rather than waste precious time going back-and-forth via email, project boards provide a definitive place for teams to update each other.
This reduces bottlenecks and needless notification spam, all the while holding collaborators accountable for their roles on any given project.
Just remember: the end goal of establishing the processes above is improved work performance and less stress among your employees.
2. Come up with a communications hierarchy within your business
The responsibility of keeping workers up-to-date shouldn’t necessarily fall on one person.
And teams shouldn’t have information only “trickle-down” to them, either.
Creating a communications hierarchy can prevent both of these issues. This means:
Define roles (and who reports to who)
No huge surprises here. When teammates know who exactly they’re reporting to or understand who is working on what, they feel more confident in their communication.
This is important for new and entry-level workers. Managers should be comfortable delegating tasks while likewise reporting to their own higher-ups.
Luckily, Teamwork allows you easily add new user names, the company, and even the role type. This makes communication hierarchy a lot simpler for leaders and those who work together.
Keep in mind that a full-blown workflow or hierarchy may not be necessary if you’re a small team with only a handful of employees. For example, an up-and-coming agency might have one or two managers working with contractors and then reporting to the founder.
For larger companies, defining roles is crucial for the sake of cross-team collaboration and communication across departments.
Be transparent, but give teams the space to talk among themselves
The ability to collaborate quickly and efficiently is crucial, especially among remote workers. The popularity of chat apps like Slack (and platforms such as our own Teamwork Chat) speak from themselves.
That said, teams should be given the freedom and flexibility to speak their minds in their own channels via team chat. The same rings true whether we’re talking about entry-level workers, contracts, C-level, and everyone in-between.
Managers should trust their teams and empower them to talk among themselves. To actually have an open dialogue policy, team members need a space free of judgement and so they feel empowered to share ideas and concerns alike.
Team channels do a great job of removing the dreaded sense that “Big Brother” is always watching. Instead, channels get people relaxed and feeling more welcomed to speak up.
For example, Teamwork allows you to create team channels, project channels, or send private messages in one place. We also provide one-on-one or team video chat to streamline communication even faster!
3. Discern between the need for real-time comms vs. ‘passive’ messages
“Ugh. Couldn’t have this just been an email?”
Chances are you’ve caught yourself thinking this after another meeting request lands in your inbox, right?
Trust us: we’ve all been there.
How you prioritize tasks go hand in hand with your internal communication strategy. Video calls, chat messages, and email might seem interchangeable but they (generally) represent varying levels of urgency and prioritization.
For example, consider the following communication framework:
- Team chat for company-wide announcements, general communication among teams, and low-priority questions.
- Documentation hubs (Teamwork Spaces) and email for the sake of having a centralized location for specific content, updates, team organizations, and onboarding documents.
- Video calls for meetings, presentations, and conversations that require 15+ minutes.
- Calls and SMS for urgent, real-time communication regarding high-priority issues.
Again, teams have to find a balance between keeping folks informed and dumping updates on them.
4. Condense your communications stack to save your team time
Fact: 43% of workers feel they waste too much time jumping between team chat and video apps.
With so many tools flooding the market, it’s no surprise that teams at large are stressed.
Although apps like Slack and Zoom are invaluable (particularly for remote teams), there’s no denying that they can be potential time-wasters. Bouncing from platform to platform results in lost productivity, not to mention needless breaks in focus.
Likewise, learning the ins and outs of numerous individual tools can be daunting. For teams working with contractors, the expectation that they need to adopt half a dozen tools to work together is unrealistic.
This speaks to the value of using an all-in-one solution like Teamwork. With your chat app, scheduler, video meetings, and granular task management options all in one place, teams can get more done within a single platform.
Now, you’re not just reducing time switching between apps, but creating an easier way to onboard workers with one tool.
For example, our Kanban board syncs with your email and team chat, and scheduler so all of your comms are in the same place. Less switching, less time wasted.
5. Assess (and reassess) your internal communications strategy over time
Reality check: your communications aren’t going to be perfect from the word “go.”
As you experiment with different tools and processes, you need to assess what’s working and what isn’t. Through conversations with your team and first-hand feedback, make a point to consciously ask:
- Do employees feel like they’re informed?
- Do employees feel that their input is heard and valued?
- Are employees spending too much time in meetings?
- Do employees feel open to collaborating?
Through feedback and surveys, you can identify bottlenecks and potential communication problems before they have a chance to spiral out of control.
Another way to assess the effectiveness of your internal communications tactics is through project time-tracking software. For example, Teamwork allows users to log the time spent on any given task (including communication).
Doing so gives you an actual metric to assess whether employees are spending ample time communicating and how comms impact outcomes.
Is your internal communications strategy working for you?
Companies can’t afford to wing it when it comes to communication.
If you feel like you can’t keep your employees on the same page or there’s too much chaos, take action to rein it in.
This post was originally published on the Teamwork blog.