Ross McCaw, CEO and founder of mobile communication app OurPeople, explains how digital tools can centralise messaging in an age of hybrid working.
While the government is urging a gradual return to the office this summer, 85% of remote employees are in favour of hybrid working and 35% of companies are planning to downsize their office space. Add to this the ongoing demands of Covid-safe protocol, and it’s clear that the office as we knew it before the Pandemic will likely never return.
In these unprecedented times, mobile and deskless workers make up 80% of the global workforce. And yet, many feel unheard and unserved by communication systems that still favour traditionally desk-based technologies.
Developing a strong suite of mobile digital communication tools is the best possible way for company leaders to bridge this gap, creating a cohesive culture that makes room for all employees. Afterall, what’s good for the company is good for growth.
Keeping everyone in the loop in a hybrid age
In a booming gig economy, our working lives are becoming more disparate, and this – combined with the remaining uncertainty of Covid – means we can no longer rely on physical work spaces to draw teams together. This is especially true of deskless industries such as leisure, retail or manufacturing, where employees work in shifts, with many working temporary or part-time roles.
An easy-to-use digital app ensures everyone in this scenario stays informed and connected, no matter how diverse their working patterns may be. Imagine a home care business is implementing an emergency Covid protocol. Instant mobile messaging via an app ensures care workers get that message as they travel to a clients’ home. Everyone is updated on the move, without information being lost or diluted. The same goes for a theme park facing bad weather, or a beauty parlour coordinating sick cover. This kind of instant communication streamlines communication, keeping the business functioning in the best possible way, even in uncertain circumstances.
This functionality also has an important part to play in harnessing team culture. In what can often feel like a disconnected world, a centralised platform for communication unites the team and ensures no-one is left out. By sending out team-wide updates instantly, everyone sees announcements at the same time, eliminating confusion and the risk of information hierarchies. Afterall, staff who feel respected and happy at work are more likely to perform better and stick around for the long run.
Updating the right people in real-time
The best kind of digital platform will also allow you to pivot effortlessly between team-wide broadcasts, smaller groups or one-to-one messaging – so you don’t spam people with unnecessary information. Continuous partial attention is a real issue in a hyperconnected world: we’re constantly dividing our focus between different devices and demands. Incorporating a unified communication platform with a targeted messaging service, allows team members to receive the updates they need, without switching platforms or devices, taking up less time and attention. Digital tools such as OurPeople’s also allow managers to see who or who hasn’t seen an update, meaning managers can follow up with people directly instead of spamming entire teams.
Another smart way of combating digital noise within communication streams is to experiment intelligently with how you format your messages. Short digital quizzes encourage personalised training, by flagging knowledge gaps to individuals as opposed to entire teams. Meanwhile, we’ve seen a 51% increase in video messages on our platform in the past 12 months, as employers ramp up engagement with concise, easy and impactful broadcasts.
Flexible, targeted messaging ensures confusion is kept to a minimum, allowing your employees to work as efficiently as they can, without having to navigate noisey or distracting messaging systems like email and text whilst at work.
Holding space for your team, wherever they’re based
Above all, having a strong digital infrastructure is about creating a support system that feeds directly into identity and purpose. We know that happy employees are more productive, and yet – with burnout and loneliness at an all-time high – employees need to work harder than ever to foster a core sense of wellbeing.
Short digital questionnaires can be effective here, giving employees the opportunity to provide anonymous, real-time feedback on working practises; and allowing managers to catch wider issues before they become a problem. While there’s no magic fix to a mental health problem, employees can help by regularly soliciting employees’ views and listening to their suggestions of what could help, e.g. Friday early finishes, wellbeing vouchers or using a no-contact protocol at weekends.
Digital channels can also be used to celebrate staff members on their birthdays, anniversaries, or for reaching a big work target. This wider team activity can be supported by regular one-to-one sessions where managers and team members can create space to ideas or solve issues, as well as helping individual workers to stay on-track with projects. Building this kind of trust and rapport with employees is key for the long-term success of the business, and ensures managers are able to lead with the confidence of a comprehensive communication system behind them.
Managing people in a hybrid age means checking in often, creating rapid and actionable feedback, and striking a balance between updates and receiving feedback. If used effectively, streamlined digital communication can do exactly that: helping your teams feel valued and involved, even from a distance.