Tips for adapting your corporate intranet to enhance remote employees’ digital workplace

Parents using computer while sitting with boy

A roundtable discussion at Brightspot's recent webinar on corporate intranets yielded these insights from professionals grappling with how to facilitate internal and employee communication in the face of COVID-19 and the new realities of dispersed, remote workforces.

Your corporate intranet is in the spotlight more than ever with a majority of the workforce working from home indefinitely. Companies face new pressure to improve their intranet beyond a document repository and create an engaging communications hub that keeps remote employees productive and connected.

We spoke to a panel of internal communications and intranet experts and found that there are a few key areas the intranet can transform to meet the challenges of a remote workforce. As COVID-19 continues to change how we work, companies must remain agile and continue to adapt and enhance remote employee workflows, productivity, engagement and satisfaction. The panelists—Gina Marchini from Synopsys and Parker Ramsdell and Roy Ben-Yoseph from Brightspot—discussed four areas you may need to look at to adapt your intranet in the era of remote work.

Four tips to adapt corporate intranets for remote work

Intranet Tip #1: Update intranet security

One big change for many organizations is the security and ability to access the intranet. Before updating the content on the intranet to help employees, how the intranet is accessed needs to be changed to balance security and the completely remote environment.

Security was the first aspect Parker changed the week everyone started to work from home. Previously, accessing the intranet had required being on the company network. This presented limitations with access, so Parker had to make a change away from VPN access to make it a little bit easier for employees to access from any device. Due to Brightspot’s easy-to-use security features, employees didn’t lose out on intranet access.

Intranet Tip #2: Create a centralized communication hub

The first week spent working from home, Parker built out a centralized COVID-19 resource section on the Brightspot-powered intranet to hold and share all content related to the pandemic. Within one week, he was able to “create a space where employees could turn to not only for their work life, but for their personal life as well.” Simply having the information exist on the intranet isn’t enough, it’s about the content you include. A few key topics to include are:

  • Health and benefits: Remind employees about any benefits they have surrounding health and wellness and how they take advantage of them. This may include any exercise classes, meditation groups or new fitness challenges the company is holding
  • Parenting resources: Working from home with children can make it twice as difficult to do your job. Collect resources and tools parents in the company are using and share them with everyone.
  • New processes and guidelines: Provide detailed information on new work from home procedures, return to work policy and keep it updated with the latest news.

The lack of physical connection has made video a very compelling communication tool. Prior to the pandemic, Gina’s organization would use video as a communication tool on the intranet a few times a year. Now, they are posting videos every other week. Video communication from executives, filmed in their homes with their phones, can be easier to digest than pages of text and help employees feel engaged and part of the organization as we get further apart from a physical distance.

Intranet Tip #3: Organization of documents for efficiency

Efficiency is more important than ever. With all the distractions that arise from working at home, employees shouldn’t have to waste time hunting for what they need the moment they need it. Having an efficient system that employees can turn to for easy access to the tools and information they need helps to bolster productivity. Many intranets existed first as a document repository, but over time and with the constant addition of content and documentation, you may need to revisit the organization to ensure that necessary documents are easily accessible.

Gina stated that while it’s important to create a communication hub, you “don't want it to go crazy to where people can't find information that they need.”

Intranet Tip #4: Over-communication is key

In the past four months, it’s become clear just how vital over-communication is in a remote world and especially during times of crisis. Employees working from home experience new stresses along with being scared and uncertain about their families and jobs amidst COVID-19. The intranet also needs to communicate more than just updates, it needs to establish lines of communication to check-in with how employees are dealing with their new work situation. Erring on the side of over-communication is critical to keep the remote workforce satisfied and productive.

Gina also stressed the importance of over-communication and how video content can be a great avenue through which to communicate. The personal element of a video can show employees that they do have a team of people trying to do what they can to ensure that everyone feels comforted and supported and has the resources to not only execute their job but also to make sure that their personal life is taken care of.

How can your intranet replace “coffee talks” in the office?

So much happens during the time spent standing up and getting a cup of coffee, when the CEO just swings by your cubicle to see what you're working on and when you’re chatting with colleagues from different departments in the kitchen. Before the pandemic forced 70% of the U.S. workforce to go remote, neither of our panelists had ever thought about how to translate those methods of communication to the intranet. The expectation was that these conversations would never go away.

A big question surrounding what organizations want and need an intranet to be in this moment is how can you replace those little moments if those little moments don’t exist. Gina had an interesting experience where she has actually met people within her organization that she didn’t know before since switching to remote work. She said, “It puts a little bit more effort on you, as the individual, to kind of create those conversations because they're not happening organically anymore. Ironically, you find more personal information when you're actually farther away from someone.”

The intranet can't replicate face-to-face conversation, as there’s still work to do to foster two-way communication to share ideas and build relationships. These are huge challenges, but they also present an opportunity for organizations to accelerate their digital transformation efforts to keep remote employees engaged and productive, encourage collaboration, and centralize crisis response efforts. Incorporating these tips could be the first step to create a better digital workplace for your employees.

Your intranet CMS needs to support personalized, engaging employee experiences to foster the right company culture whether it’s for in-person or remote teams.