There is little doubt that remote working has become an essential part of keeping businesses running in times of crisis, and many organisations have quickly realised that the future workplace is already here.
Whilst many businesses have struggled to rapidly introduce systems to allow working from home and the use of personal devices, those who were better prepared for such a situation are turning away from the office altogether. Pinterest hit the headlines when it paid almost $90 million to terminate a lease on a new office in San Francisco, citing the shift in its employees working from home. Other big names like Twitter, Square, and Shopify have offered staff the chance to work remotely in the long term too.
So how do you move a business to this new way of working?
If the future workplace is, in fact, hundreds of home-based workplaces, communication and collaboration are two of the most important areas to focus on. Without these, it would be impossible for even the smallest of businesses to operate efficiently.
Email has been the cornerstone of business communication for decades, and whilst it’s not going away any time soon, it’s not a suitable tool for managing multiple employees, departments, and projects. Telephone and video conferencing might be an option for replacing face-to-face meetings, but managing the everyday conversations of an entire workforce through calls and emails would be frightening to most people.
Social media offers us lots of communication options, with chat, messaging, calls, and video, but there’s often a reluctance from both employees and employers to make use of this.
Staff are unlikely to want to use their personal profiles for work-related communication, whilst employers have understandable hesitancies about entrusting their communications to a third party. The potential disasters of mixing your work and personal groups are all too well known in the GIF and meme age, as is accidentally signing off a message to your boss with kisses.
Could corporate social networking be the answer?
We’re all familiar with social networking, and the future workforce is going to be even more proficient users of it, so wouldn’t it make sense to build the future workplace around them too?
A corporate social network is an internal social space used to communicate within organisations. Sometimes called an internal social network or an enterprise social network, it features all of the benefits of the more well-known public options but keeps your conversations, information, and data securely within your digital workplace.
Corporate social network – the essentials
In order to create a functional, and efficient, internal network, you’ll need to make sure that you have the features available to help your employees fulfil the same needs they’d have in an office environment, including:
Channels – these help you categorise or group your conversations into relevant areas. Creating dedicated team, topic, and project channels allows your employees to only access content that’s relevant to them. This ensures your network doesn’t overwhelm employees with irrelevant conversation and keeps information easily searchable.
Collaboration – being able to collaborate across the business, even when remote working, is an essential feature. Your data, information, and knowledge stay safely within your network without the worries of security breaches or unsecured devices downloading your work.
Communication – in a recognised format, but without the concerns of privacy and data security. Chat-based messaging, @ mentions, liking and commenting on posts, even birthday reminders; all of these are familiar to the social media generation and will open lines of communication that an email never could.
Tasks – they come out of almost every business conversation, so why wouldn’t we want a system that allows us to build tasks straight out of the discussion we’ve just had? No delays, no memos, no emails, just effective task management that makes assigning work simple.
Transparency – this is often overlooked in employee communication, and the feeling of ‘not being informed’ is one that causes stress, confusion, agitation, and anxiety amongst workers. An open network allows them to see exactly what’s going on in the company and who’s managing specific tasks, avoiding duplicated efforts.
The ability to use an internal tool to share ideas, build relationships, and streamline tasks isn’t only beneficial to existing teams; it’s a great tool to use when onboarding new colleagues too.
Making internal networks work
Despite the clear advantages of such software, some businesses see low uptake when introducing corporate social networks into their workforce. Some of the successes of these networks serve to highlight where others go wrong:
- Management and senior leadership don’t use the network (particularly the social aspect), making employees feel like their contributions are not being heard. Simply liking or commenting on an idea to validate someone’s contribution is key.
- Asking for input is another often overlooked aspect of internal employee contribution. Telstra, the largest telecommunications company in Australia, asked employees on their internal network “What processes and technologies should we eliminate?” and received over 700 responses within an hour.
- The main reason social media has become so popular is that it’s fun to use. Whilst corporate networks certainly don’t need to be filled with gifs and memes, it’s important that employees are allowed to enjoy a little entertainment from time to time, especially in distributed teams.
If the future workplace means remote and distributed teams, connecting employees in the safest, most familiar way is going to ensure that businesses continue to grow with or without the need for face-to-face contact.