THE ART OF COMMUNICATION WITH STAFF WHILST WORKING FROM HOME
Business as usual in an unusual time. If you are a boutique, small to medium firm, it’s likely you are in unchartered waters regarding working from home. As an individual -I know I am and that’s perfectly fine. Let the first couple of days take its course giving us time to collect our thoughts.
The most common denominator in business is change and how we deal with it. Some will adapt; others won’t. Our task for the weeks that lie ahead is to simply make it work – that’s the medium we need to find. The key tool (obviously) is that we communicate with each other and how we tailor the modes of communication from one person to the next. Some may like to “see” the message, whereas a select few may like to “hear” the message. Let’s us walk you through some of the techniques we can use together.
People can operate interdependently if they communicate effectively through various forms. The obvious form would be to pick up your smart phone and dial the number of your intended person and chat over the phone. Video call is also quite effective, should the platforms be at your disposal (Zoom & MS Teams & FaceTime) and of course, email.
E-mailing has become embedded in everyday business when communicating with others outside your firm; it’s effective. Within the firm emails are fine, however there are a few underlying traits with email that we don’t really address. Emails lack the emotion you would usually experience in the office; they can be somewhat impersonal where we would say things in emails that we would not say face to face. Finally, emails often lead to an information overload for your staff members from attaching PDFs, briefs, settlement documents/contracts just to name a random few – we tend to use up to three hours a day processing emails. Emails in this lockdown period should be used primarily for defined instructions and explaining step by step processes such as basic steps to a task. Avoid emails to touch base with your staff, a phone call or text will go much further if not work related.
During the next few weeks, we are going to ask a lot from our staff. Emails, texts, PDFs, software(s) calls, Zoom – the list goes on. You are steering your staff into the direction of information overload. You want to avoid this. Naturally staff will find ways in which they can manage it themselves in their own way. It is paramount that we encourage staff to take the time to work in two to three hour working blocks, this gives them the empowerment to take control of their own workloads. The quality, output of work and legal theory will grow when staff know they don’t need to be in front of the PC from 9am right up until knock off. Work efficiently.
Communication involves one sending out the intended message and the next receiving that very message. It is one thing to send a message, but how do we know our message is being received? Make your message get across in the follow ways;
a) Be clear with the task or order in which you have put across. A technique here would be for you to put yourself in the receiver’s shoes, especially if you know that person well and their personal traits; your aim would be to encode that message on how they would receive it.
b) Repeat your message without sounding like a robot. This is a two-pronged effect whereby if you are the sender OR the receiver – repeat your message. See what I did there?
c) Change your message throughout various platforms. Remember how we said emails are somewhat impersonal? Yes. If you’re checking in with your secretary or superior for that matter, a phone call may suffice. Don’t forget; some people will prefer to SEE the message, and some would prefer to HEAR the message. Encode your message to the receiver.
The most important aspect in the next few weeks will be to convey to your staff, what we would like to achieve and the method of approach you use will be crucial. Simply convey that there is no right or wrong way to go about your business from home; just get the work done, at your own pace and time -…...ahem, within reason!
The “noise” at home will be more distracting than the noise at work. Adapting to a new work atmosphere from home is not easy from one person to the next: make your staff feel as comfortable as you can. There are 6,000,000 Victorians either working from home, without a job or on hiatus. Do not take this for granted.
Be clear in your message, use all platforms, encourage working in two-hour blocks and repeat your message. And don’t forget, be humble, be respectful and accommodating to your staff. Make it work, for your usual procedures are probably null and void for the time being.
This is temporary; nothing ever lasts forever.
This article is intended only to provide a summary of the subject matter covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to render legal advice. No reader should act on the basis of any matter contained in this article without first obtaining specific professional advice.
DISCLAIMER: We accept no responsibility for any action taken after reading this article. It is intended as a guide only and is not a substitute for the expert legal advice you can get from De Marco Lawyers and other relevant experts.