If you have a job in 2017 (and if you’re reading this, that’s a safe bet), you know work has undergone what I call an “extreme makeover: corporate edition” in the last 10-15 years. Gone are the days of coming into an office and working 9 to 5. Now we work whenever and from wherever. In fact, according to Forbes, in a mere three years the mobile workforce is projected to comprise roughly three-quarters of U.S. employees.
There are definitely perks that accompany this dramatic shift. On the plus side, businesses save big on office space and other overheard costs. It’s also a good deal for remote employees: they avoid a stressful commute and can create a schedule that matches their needs. It’s a win/win.
But, hold up. While the benefits of a mobile workforce are many, there is one significant drawback—communication.
Only 7% of human communication is found in content. The rest is conveyed through body language, tone of voice and facial expressions, things that get lost in email and text. So, get a video conferencing platform and you’re golden, right? Being able to see the smiling faces of your team is a great first step, but it doesn’t go far enough. The way we hold conversations also has to change if we want to keep remote workers connected and engaged. The next time you talk to your team, whether it’s over phone or video, consider including this one practice:
Ask open-ended questions!
Can you spot the difference in these two questions?
Is the project going well?
What are your next steps with the project?
You got it. One is a yes/no question and the other is open-ended. Why are open-ended questions so important in manager/employee conversations? For starters, they encourage a full, meaningful answer using the other person’s knowledge and perspective. In other words, they help the employee feel heard. And if an employee feels heard more often they will feel engaged and connected. Open-ended questions also benefit the manager as they deliver more information and insight into projects and tasks, i.e., how work is getting done.
Of course, there are many more things you can do to create better communication with your mobile employees. But if you begin to look at the way you ask questions, I promise it will go a long way, no matter where or when your team is working.