As the HR manager of Research Integrations–a small business that began allowing employees to work from home offices in order to provide flexibility and retain key employees and then eventually moved all employees to home offices–this seems like an important question to answer.
At first the answer to this question seems complicated, but in the end, it may be simple. While the modalities of communication have changed with technology and telecommuting, the core messages and objectives of effective communication have not changed. Successful companies use communication effectively to accomplish these key objectives:
- Provide a shared vision
- Establish accountability
- Establish and maintain working relationships
- Maintain awareness of current challenges and successes
- Evaluate employee engagement
- Reward accomplishments
For telecommuting these objectives need to remain the focus; however, the strategies to accomplish them may differ from a traditional office environment.
For a company that does not understand where it is going and what its employees should be focused on, eliminating telecommuting may make sense while the company is figuring this out. However, success will only come if leadership is able to determine and communicate the focus and direction of the company, stay connected to the employees as they execute it, and to develop flexible strategies as technology evolves.
Recently, I read about a company who requires its employees to spend 5 minutes at the end of each day to answer a few simple questions. The employees reflect on their day, communicate challenges, consider solutions, and plan for the next day. This is a simple way to promote productivity and communication from anywhere on a regular basis.
So in the end, location shouldn’t matter. The focus should be on “what” and “how” to communicate and not on the location you are communicating to and from.