The remote working vs office split - the workstyle of the future?

Business Insights

With the gradual easing of lockdown, many companies are moving staff back into the office, but with some remaining at home. James Cook of SpiderGroup shares his thoughts about communicating with fragmented teams.

Having staff in several locations adds a new challenge to team communication. Home working colleagues will miss out on the impromptu chat and problem solving that can happen spontaneously in the office, and office staff may find that they have to get used to being back in that work environment again. Many people have said they found home working really great for productivity, so being back in the office will take some adjustment. This staff split is a new pressure on team communication, and it will be easy for home working staff to feel cut off from the “action” unless some simple steps are taken.

Maintain equality.

Video calls are here to stay, but we have noticed that using a dedicated video meeting room at the office can cause inequality when people dial in on their own into a team situation. That can make the people who are alone feel very isolated. To combat this, provide each office-based staff member with their own headset and all dial in separately to video meetings so that those who are working remotely don't feel that segregation.

Provide a clear communication strategy.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the choice of communication tech available. Whether using Slack or WhatsApp for messaging, video calls and even the traditional phone call, make sure that the communication pathway is clear. Revisit the way your tech will work with your teams and give each communication tool a dedicated purpose. We like Teams and have a watercooler channel for chat as well as dedicated channels for different projects. It keeps us from sending too many emails and from interrupting colleagues who are focused on deep work.

Some companies have a code they use within their messaging to make it clear if it is urgent for not. This can be invaluable, so colleagues know how urgently they need to prioritise responding.

Have regular team check ins

Consider increasing amounts of scheduled team check-ins you have whilst your team is remote and fragmented. They need not be lengthy meetings - a quick ‘where are you up to’ and ‘what do you need to help you’ is sufficient. When you have a team split across home and the office, making sure to keep up any check-ins you initiated at the start of lockdown will prevent the home-based staff from feeling forgotten.

Socialising and meet-ups

Provide regular social and non-work meetups and moments for team celebration too, even if you continue to do these online for the time being. This is vital for making sure that everyone in the team feels part of the company, whether they are in the office or not.

James Cook, SpiderGroup

James Cook is the CEO of growth agency, SpiderGroup.