Team Communication in the Age of Coronavirus
March 13, 2020
Image from https://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2020/03/12/65409/how-is-the-coronavirus-pandemic-impacting-your-wor/
With COVID-19 spreading further in the US, companies like Amazon, Google, and Oracle have asked their employees to clock-in from home. Here at TalkMeUp, we’ve taken the same precaution and encouraged our teams in Pittsburgh and Silicon Valley to engage in a healthy level of social distancing.
That said, the next few months promise to be a test for many companies that are not accustomed to keeping remote or distributed teams engaged and productive. At TalkMeUp, we have some experience in this area and wanted to share some advice on how you too can maintain good communication during the pandemic.
Here are the strategies that have worked for us and that might work for you.
Put Basic Communication/Collaboration Tools in Place
If you haven’t already, invest in the supporting technology to make communication and collaboration possible for your team. At TalkMeUp, we use Zoom for business calls and meetings, both internally (e.g., team meetings) and externally (e.g., sales calls with customers). Other options you might consider include Skype, WebEx, and Go-To Meeting, though we cannot vouch for these since our use has been limited.
For daily team communication, TalkMeUp relies on Slack, WeChat, and our company emails. For goal-setting and task-tracking, we like Asana, although we’ve also heard great things about Lark and Trello.
Categorize Communication Channels
Additionally, you will want to establish communication channels that enable timely, relevant, and on-demand information-sharing. Some channels might be project-specific; others topic-specific; some channels are for general team discussion; and others for announcements or even funny meme sharing. Whatever the case, it’s helpful to categorize and establish standards for each communication channel so that team members know where to go to get the information they need.
Clarify Goals, Roles, and Processes
A disruptive event like coronavirus will put new demands on your company; old work processes will change; and the team will adapt. When your team suddenly shifts from co-located to remote, it might be necessary to rethink how your goals and tasks will be achieved. Even if it’s not, your team will feel uncertain about the sudden change and they will need reassurance on how to move forward. Call an all-hands meeting for your team. Even if it seems repetitive, clarify each person’s role. Also clarify any changes to process or decision-making. In times of crisis, many will want to go directly to the CEO for a decision, but you may not want to overburden her.
The idea of clarifying goals, roles, and processes is to minimize the impact of the shock and to build momentum so you can keep your business going.
Schedule Regular Video Meetings
Here at TalkMeUp, we’re big on face-to-face communication, so whenever we can, we do video calls. A video call captures many things a phone call cannot: you can see the other person you are talking to, you can read their facial and emotional expressions, and you can build a better bond with them, which is critical when your team is no longer meeting in person.
The lesson: make video calls the norm.
Keep Things Fun and Personal
According to an academic study from Stanford, the biggest drawback of remote work is employees experiencing loneliness which makes them less motivated to work. Self-sequestering due to a global pandemic adds even more stress to the equation.
To prevent loneliness or cabin fever, keep things fun and personal in your virtual communication. That can be as simple as the boss sharing a meme on a team channel or team members sending comical selfies of their life at home. However that fun might play out, show your team it’s ok to find and build companionship even while they’re on the job.