In March 2020, the UK and many other parts of the world, were plunged into lockdown, as millions of people were forced to return to remote working in line with Government guidance. Accompanied by their children, pets, partners, parents and flatmates, the battle for quiet workspace, comfortable chairs and internet bandwidth commenced!

By now, we have all become lockdown veterans, having experienced a similar situation twice before. Although we have learnt how to handle remote working life, there is still a lot of frustration from colleagues, as communication between clients and management is stifled by current working conditions.

In this blog, we will revise previous lessons on communication, and take a closer look at how you currently communicate, so that you can be more productive and develop new habits that will have a lasting benefit once the Covid-19 crisis has passed.

Our previous blog highlighted three criteria for good communication: connection, clarity and commitment. In this week’s instalment, we will explore three practical ideas to build on those aspirations.

Interrupt

Normally, we work with clients to help them avoid interruptions, allowing them to become more productive, but in this instance, we are suggesting the opposite! To be clear, it is not that you should be disrupting colleagues so they never complete important tasks, but it’s beneficial to break up the monotony of endless hours sat in front of your computer. There is plenty of evidence to suggest this is having a negative impact on mental health, sleep and eyesight, not to mention their overall work performance.

A physical break from their work every 60-90 minutes is recommended. The idea is to concentrate in this period on uninterrupted work, before giving your mind and body a break to reset. Stand up, walk about and engage your mind on something different.

Leaders can be a great help during this period, where a lot of colleagues are sat in the same seat looking at the screen for upwards of eight hours per day. Leaders and managers should schedule ‘interruptions’ at specific and regular intervals, sometimes arranging to speak on the phone rather than Teams or Zoom so that participants can stand up, walk around and give their eyes a rest.

Remember, a normal working day at the office would include many similar interruptions, so you don’t need to feel guilty about taking an occasional break from work. In the current situation, leaders can stimulate this routine to the benefit of everyone in the business.

Interact

We all love email, don’t we? When we have something to say we can fire it off in an email and get straight back to what we were doing – job done! At the same time, email can be a frustrating tool, especially if those on the receiving end of the message got the wrong end of the stick or misunderstood a key element of it.

Without regular face-to-face interaction, email and instant messaging services can be incredibly useful, but they also come with their own limitations. Good quality communication must involve interaction. A shared understanding and agreed actions stem from healthy debate and discussion, with input from various perspectives.

Using the interrupt principle above, leaders must allow for good interaction amongst team members, rather than simply issuing information and instructions via email. Not only will this improve the quality of work, but it has huge benefits for morale and motivation, creating a more productive and enjoyable environment for everyone.

Both one-to-one and team interactions are incredibly important when leading a remote team. One of the key learnings from previous lockdowns is that everyone’s remote working experience is different, and the more aware and supportive leaders are of individual circumstances, the better the performances are.

Inspire

Unfortunately, you do not have to look very far to find bad news, especially in the current climate, where TV, online news and social media all convey in detail the challenges and hardships faced by so many. As human beings with emotions, it’s perfectly understandable that too much of this type of news can take its toll on our mood.

Leaders need to be real. Honesty and authenticity are always at the top of the list when it comes to what people want from their leaders. Being connected requires engagement with the world, where the reality for many individuals and perhaps the organisation, may be bleak.

One of the key roles of a leader is to inspire. What is the bright, positive future we see beyond the present day? How will we continue to make a positive impact for our customers? What great adversity can we overcome together with determination, hard work and team spirit?

It’s no coincidence that many great leaders, past and present, are most known for their inspiring speeches given in dark times. What is the best way for leaders to inspire others? To be inspired themselves by the purpose, mission and vision towards which they are working towards and communicating this to others at every opportunity.

It’s been widely said that ‘Leadership IS communicating!’

Think carefully about how and what you are communicating. There are many great opportunities to make a positive impact on the people you serve and the organisation you are a part of.