Remote workers – top three tips on breaking that barrier!

By Advita Patel

January 15, 2016

 I've been to many conferences where conversation always turns to how we can communicate to remote workers. However, I often ask myself if our remote workers are actually that remote? With the abundance of technology, we now have the advantage of belonging to a world that’s much smaller and accessible than it used to be. From watching astronauts eating their breakfast in the space station thousands of miles away to talking to colleagues in America via FaceTime. So why are we finding it difficult to communicate with ‘remote workers’?

I’m sure we will never get the perfect solution and there will always be areas where the struggle will continue, but I thought it would be useful to share with you things that have worked well for me at Manchester Airports Group:
1) ‘Appy Days
Now we are pretty certain we are definitely not the first people to think about a colleague app for mobile devices but we also know that not many organisations have this in place. However, once we saw how much time our colleagues spent on their devices in their downtime it was obvious that we needed to try to utilise this as much as we could. Our app was developed over a period of six months and our ethos throughout the whole process was to keep it simple, easy to use and accessible. We share group news, local messaging, videos, feedback forms, newsletters and more recently we have started to introduce blogs/vlogs to help keep it fresh and current.  To date almost 70% of our population have downloaded the app on their own personal devices with higher than average returners coming back daily. It's probably one of our most successful channels that we've ever introduced.

2) Print still has a place
There was genuine outcry when we suggested removing our printed magazine and moving it online. After speaking to our colleagues they enjoyed having something tangible in their hands which they could take their time over. We try to avoid sharing news stories via this medium and focus more on feature-led pieces which are more about people, such as spotlight on teams, five minutes with, a day in the life etc. We also try to link our strategic key messages where we possibly can but we try to avoid too much ‘business speak’.

3) Don’t be faceless
One key lesson I’ve learnt during my time in IC is don’t assume that all remote workers are the same. Even if it worked in your last organisation or you've read really interesting case studies on things that have succeeded in other businesses, it doesn't necessarily mean it will work with your colleagues, even if the scope of the business is exactly the same. To truly understand what remote workers want, you have to go to them. Whether this means getting up in the middle of the night to see early shift workers or coming in at midnight to see night staff it’s important that you hear the information directly from the people you want to communicate with. It will give you evidence and kudos when you're trying to get senior leaders on board with your ideas.
Now by no means do we have the perfect formula and we still have lots of work to do but in the last 18 months we’ve seen some great improvements within comms in our remote operational areas. I'd love to know more about what's worked for you in your organisation, have you found that magic formula?

Advita Patel, one of our committee members, is Internal communication lead at Manchester Airports Group.

Image credit: Featured image CCO