Science may never come up with a better office communication system than the coffee break. - Earl Wilson
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Issue 25   March, 2015

Sue HornerDear Sue2,
Many of us work at a desk with a computer all day, and the default way to reach us often involves technology. This issue of Wordnerdery talks about how to reach the many employees who don’t have a desk.
Sue's signature

How do you reach remote or "non-desk" workers?

A typical workplace is a “cube farm,” that cluster of modular office cubicles where people can pop up like gophers to chat across the dividers. But a workspace can just as easily be a mine, a retail sales floor, a room of sewing machines, the cab of a delivery truck or other location with little or no access to a computer.
Non-traditional workplace making shoes
How do companies talk to employees who don’t work in a cube farm? I polled LinkedIn groups related to employee communications, searched IABC’s Memberspeak forum and Twitter chats, and of course queried Google. Here’s what my research revealed:

There are more high-tech tools than ever supporting communication, especially vital for connecting with "raised-on-technology" generations:
  • Videoconferencing and collaboration tools like GoToMeeting, Skype private groups, SharePoint, Basecamp, Google Hangouts, WhenIWork (Inc. talks about some of these)
  • Internal social network tools like Yammer, Chatter, Jive
  • Mobile messaging apps like Red e App, Ivytalk, SnapComms
  • Texts to personal smartphones (with permission!)
  • Google Glass for instant information, instruction and notification
  • Podcasts, videos, webcasts, internal YouTube channels
  • Digital signs
  • Social media: blog posts, tweets, an intranet that feels like Facebook
  • "Gamification" (ugh - a term I hate): quizzes, board games, interactive elements that make learning fun.
Low-tech or more traditional tools are still important ways to let employees take in information and feel connected:
  • Face-to-face gatherings like town hall meetings, pre-shift meetings, conference calls, safety meetings (timed to include all shifts)
  • Print newsletters, bulletins, pay inserts, letters to the home, posters, postcards, flyers
  • Shared computers in break rooms
  • Email messages, an email newsletter with a link to a PDF version (printed out and posted for field workers)
  • Toll-free hotlines for pre-recorded messages, news, emergency and weather-related closings.
As usual, the key to appropriate communications is to identify how your employees want to and can easily receive information. ASK. Also:
  • Support direct managers and supervisors – who are key sources of information – with communications tools, messages, scripts, Q&A, training
  • Encourage feedback and provide different ways for employees to provide it, including surveys, polls, email
  • Vary the format; use multiple options, including both high-tech and low-tech options.
Do you have "non-desk" employees? How do you reach them? Hit "reply" and tell me which channels work best for you. And let me know if you'd like help writing engaging content for those channels.

Images: Shoe stitching by Panpote and Sue by Chris Salvo,

Related links

The Tribe Report's "Non-Desk Issue"

As I was polishing this, IABC's CommChat talked about non-desk employees 

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