For small and medium-sized businesses around the world, operations have been upended. The extent of the interruption depends on the industry, as well as the location of the business. But by and large, the COVID-19 outbreak has put countless SMBs in a difficult position.
Specific challenges vary from one company to the next, but one that is fairly universal is communication. With interrupted hours, restrictions on social activity, and sometimes an inability to work on site, SMB managers are having to find new ways to keep up communication. Our blog post ‘Keeping Your Customers Informed During the Pandemic’ spoke to this issue with regard to communication with customers. We discussed how managers can use digital means to keep their customers informed about all of the basics (hours of operation, closing information, etc.), as well as that businesses should communicate appreciation, calmness, and care. These are all handy, necessary tips in our new working environment.
But what about a strategy for internal communications?
While it’s easy enough for people working in small businesses to touch base regularly, many of these companies face long-term changes. That means that at least in some cases they’ll need to find reliable ways to sustain the level of conversation and interaction necessary to keep operations running smoothly. There are a few key initiatives to start with.
Find the Right Software
The “right” software for remote work communication depends somewhat on your company’s needs. As you’re likely aware by now, there are a number of pretty straightforward programs out there that can help with basic chatting or video conferencing. However, there are also more comprehensive approaches that can set a business up for long-term remote collaboration. The project management software explained on Box details some of the benefits of opting for a fully-fledged solution, specifying that some programs enable centralized content and real-time collaboration in addition to basic communication features. With something like this on hand, a small or medium-sized business can effectively digitize its internal operations, making it much easier for employees to stay updated and to keep participating remotely.
Schedule Daily Huddles
The “daily huddle” is a term we’re borrowing from U.S. News & World Report, which mentioned it in the midst of a piece about how remote workers can improve communication skills. Above, we discussed some of the options out there for making remote communication possible. But actually scheduling or incentivizing that communication is also necessary. A “daily huddle” — something as simple as a morning call or an afternoon meeting — ensures that people stay connected and continue to manage their own workloads. In a typical working environment, daily meetings might be excessive or repetitive, and can lose their power over time. In a remote working situation however, an SMB can remain more cohesive and more productive with regular digital meetings.
Facilitate Non-Work Socialization
The last key point we’d make with regards to internal communications in the time of COVID-19 is that it’s also important to facilitate some non-work socialization. It may not seem necessary, but experts tend to agree that at least some normal social activity among coworkers can lead to greater productivity. An author on happiness in the workplaces was quoted by Forbes remarking that socialization is “essential” for people’s careers, and continued by suggesting that getting to know coworkers “as human beings” leads to better communication and more effective work. And that might be the best way to put it. Coworkers don’t need to be best friends, but they ought to know one another. In remote conditions, that can best be achieved via some non-work socialization. Whether this means group chats that aren’t meetings, team trivia over video chat, or anything else similar is up to each business to decide.
Hopefully these tips can give your business a leg up in establishing effective internal communications in these challenging times.