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15 June 2019
Don’t invade the canteen!

Communicating to remote or deskless workers has been one of the biggest challenges for organisations for years. Professional communicators have talked about this barrier, but it has been moved into the ‘too hard’ pile. To help overcome this, I partnered with SocialOptic and together we took to the mess rooms, cafes and fire stations to find out more; looking at what these workers wanted to hear from organisations, and how internal communicators need to step away from the digital silver bullet.

Seven organisations where the majority of their workforce were remote/deskless took part in the research, which looked at the way organisations communicate and the content that was shared.

The research uncovered four key themes:

Flying solo or part of a team
Remote or deskless workers are often grouped as the same but there is a fundamental difference between someone working in a café, for the fire service or for a transport company. The research showed a difference in connections and communication types as workers were grouped into teams, mixed or solo. The dependence on others to complete the tasks for the job being the core differentiator.

The importance of third space
The theory of third space comes from sociologist Ray Oldenburg who coined the phrase as the space between work and home. This is a sacred space – think a coffee shop on the weekend with your friends. For the workplace, this is the canteen or the mess room. Organisations use this space as their vehicle to communicate with digital screens sharing the latest news – this invasion results in switched off screens. Invade the canteen at your peril – it won’t engage your workforce so invest more in noticeboards or other less intrusive channels.

The importance of relevance
We know that receiving relevant information is important for most people. Our news feeds on social media are relevant to our content preferences, we can tailor news apps to get the information we want. This isn’t the case internally and as a result we are adding to the noise for the workers who have limited time to keep up to date. It doesn’t matter how much content you share, how many channels you have – the only element that makes a difference is relevance.

The skills of the manager
Line managers are also on the ‘too hard’ pile for organisations – the forgotten layer inside organisations but the most important conduit from the centre to the frontline teams. The research reaffirmed their importance but also showed that the skill of the manager outweighed the content. We can provide the best information in the most creative ways but if the manager isn’t skilled in communication it won’t make any difference.

You can read a fuller overview here and download a copy of the report:

It’s time for organisations to focus on the people working in them, not the technology they think will solve the problem.

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