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Covid-19: Why is Workplace Communication Critical?
Businesswoman working from home on her laptop
May 1, 2020

Here in the Northeast, we’re six weeks into the full blown virtual work revolution. While some organizations had previously embraced this way of working, pre-Covid-19, many were forced to take the plunge and move to this model very quickly.  

We are hearing from both employers and employees that out of sight out of mind can easily occur if you don’t set an intention to communicate, communicate and communicate more. You may have an established communication philosophy and cadence in place. Now is the time to understand its efficacy and build in additional communication activities. A plan with continuous evaluation and feedback from your workforce is critical. Here are some communication principles to consider:

Cover the basics

  • Make sure that new policies around virtual work, sick time and leave have been effectively communicated to your workforce to avoid, “I didn’t know”.
  • Ensure your employees know who to contact and how with specific questions around their work. Your goal is to help employees stay engaged and focused. This is particularly important when a portion of your workforce may be furloughed.
  • Request updated personal contact information from all employees and reiterate your organization’s business continuity procedures. 

Stay focused on culture

  • Continue with your established communication norms as this is the foundation of your culture. Adjust your current plan and increase frequency to meet the needs of your remote workforce- communicate the new plan.
  • Leverage technology options that will allow you to share organizational information and allow employees to provide feedback and creative problem solving ideas. Short surveys to large teams working remotely can help evaluate engagement. 
  • Focus on your communication cadence rather getting the technology perfect. Many leaders are very comfortable with face to face meetings, in person town halls and focus groups and using technology takes patience and practice. It’s the effort that counts.
  • Review previously scheduled meetings and events and decide which ones can continue virtually using low and high level technology.

Reduce rumors and fear

  • Ask about rumors that your workforce is hearing and speak to them. Focus on being the “voice of reason” for your most valuable resource- your employees.
  • Communicate even if you don’t have all the answers. Telling your team that you don’t know and are trying to get the information is an acceptable and healthy response. This approach will be much more palatable for employees to hear rather than providing inaccurate information.
  • Be as transparent as possible when talking about the state of the organization. In the absence of information during this crisis, employees will create their own information. Look to build trust through transparency.

Use video effectively

  • Reduce the long periods of time your employees sit in front of their “screen”. While this provides an effective way to connect with co-workers, overuse is becoming apparent. Video is also being used for outside of work social gathering. Balance is the key.
  • Adjust your designated meeting hours to include a 90-minute midday break to encourage employees to get up and move around. Having core meeting hours similar to what we do in the physical office is respectful of your employee’s time. Remember that many are balancing working remotely with educating children and supporting family.
  • Consider other alternatives like “walkies”- a meeting by phone while taking a walk around your neighborhood, yard or house. Wellness efforts during this challenging time should continue and moving is important to remain productive in these seemingly long days. 
  • Utilize the “record” feature for your meetings as teams can be overbooked or fighting the coronavirus. This is a great feature allowing meetings to be posted for those who missed out or need to understand the content for the first time.

Leesa Schipani, Partner, KardasLarson, LLC adds thoughts on the pitfalls of video conferencing and celebrating often to keep your workforce engaged.

Keep engagement high – Celebrate!

  • Celebrate everything! Keep spirits high and teams engaged with celebrations. Birthdays, babies and work anniversaries are still happening. Make acknowledging these milestones a priority and remember to celebrate in a manner that’s comfortable for your honored employee. 
  • Consider sending handwritten notes or cards in addition to emails to keep employees engaged. How nice is it to receive something in the mail that is not a bill. Sending cards and notes is special in our electronic world. If handwriting isn’t your preference, choose electronic cards to lift spirits and brighten days. 
  • Leverage instant messaging tools to send a quick “kudos”. Go beyond “thank you for doing a great job” and site specifics around what you heard or saw and its effect on the organization. Something like, “Thank you for turning this report around early. I was able to get a jump on my presentation and have some breathing room to go for a run.” 

KardasLarson would love to hear your communication best practices in our current environment. Please participate in our brief survey and we’ll share the results in future content. Sharing “best practices” will help us all work through these challenging times together. What we learn will help us reset for the future. We’re here to help you develop or fine tune your communication plan.

Cheryl Chester

Cheryl Chester

Author

With 25+ years HR experience, Cheryl's focus includes leadership development, OD, performance management, employee engagement, and succession planning.

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KardasLarson is a human resources and business consulting firm that maximizes employee performance so people and organizations prosper.

 

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