Pandemics such as the Covid-19 present uncharted territory for all of us. With the government encouraging people to work from home, companies are being forced to adapt to a reality they are not accustomed to. Communication is the lifeline of a workplace. With a dispersed workforce, a rethink on internal communication needs to take place.
For starters, companies need to embrace technology. Tools for remote communication and collaboration need to be incorporated. These tools have a number of innovative features companies will find useful. These include teleconferencing, chatting, file- sharing and communicating in groups or one-on-one for enhanced communication and teamwork.
Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts or Meet, Facebook Workplace and Zoom are some of the popular choices.
For sensitive work, or to reduce the risk of eavesdropping, its important for companies to evaluate the level of safety, security and privacy these tools offer. Consider enterprise solutions and premium offerings for increased safety and security.
With the technology in place, communication policies should be updated to reflect the new reality. Employees need to know professional standards are still to be maintained. A home workplace is just that–a workplace. When it comes to videoconferencing, workplace dress code still applies. There should be no distractions like eating while holding a meeting, and definitely the background needs to be clear in teleconferencing. Constant updates on work done should still be expected and reporting structures still remain unless informed otherwise.
To handle the anxiety brought by the virus epidemic, be open and honest in your internal communications, especially, as regards to the company state of affairs.
Any difficulties the company is facing should be brought to the attention of the employees.
Such concerns should be coupled with a commitment to keep the employees updated as the situation unfolds.
Protective measures and business continuity steps should also form part of internal communications.
These steps should be from the company’s overall crisis communication plan. These should include such elements as protocols on what happens when one of the employees is infected, what happens when an employee finds it difficult to adjust and what the company will do to accommodate government restrictions.
The measure of certainty brought about by such disclosures will ease anxiety among employees and demonstrate the existence of a strong management cognizant of the fluidity of the situation.
Employees should feel like their concerns are being noted and addressed. To accomplish this, hold open discussions with them. Seek their views and suggestions. Listen to their comments and complaints. Great ideas usually stem from such interactions. During the 2008 financial crisis, a number of companies weathered it better because their employees came up with ingenious ways of maintaining full employment for themselves without placing undue strain on the company. This was made possible because the companies’ leaderships recognised the value of their employees to the companies. The leaderships communicated with them the situation they were facing and asked for their opinion on the way forward.
To maintain some semblance of normality, employees should be encouraged to once a while interact together online in a non-work-related setting. They can play games, tell stories and jokes as a way of relieving the stress of working apart and facing an uncertain future. If possible, some of the office traditions should still continue, albeit in an online setting.
As management, it is important to communicate both resiliency and at the same time temper expectations.
An updated internal communication that recognises the need to meet these two goals will go a long way to encourage employees to continue being productive in the face of uncertainty.