The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the way we communicate. Rapidly we’ve adapted, creating new work environments, ways of checking-in, family activities and personal routines.
Companies across every industry are challenged with finding ways to arm their employees with the knowledge they need to succeed in these times of crisis, and ensure teams feel connected, informed and ready to face the challenges ahead.
But, some conversations are easier to have than others. People are being challenged in ways they never have before. It’s important that organizations acknowledge that their employees may be struggling right now, and take steps to keep the lines of communication open and transparent. Here are five ideas for effective crisis communication with your employees:
1. Provide a platform for feedback:
The way we work has changed. Many of your employees maybe be working from home for the first time, which means you are managing them from home for the first time. You are probably experimenting with different tactics to communicate, plan and monitor production. Whenever implementing something new, a vital step is assessing if it is working or needs revision. That’s why it is key to provide employees a means of feedback so that the organization on the whole can determine the success of the new direction.
Try to have an individual check-in with each team member to talk with them about how they are doing – and not just on their projects. It’s important to create dedicated time outside of routine work discussions to give more sensitive discussions their own space and focus without competing with work updates. In this uncertain economic, time, some employees may not feel comfortable asking for help or voicing their concerns directly, so make sure to have some means of anonymous feedback also available to your employees. Create an anonymous survey to get honest feedback on what’s working, what’s not and suggestions for change.
2. Facilitate a productive home environment
Many of us have home office setups that pre-date COVID-19, but not all are so lucky. When working from home is the only option, it’s important to create a conducive home office work environment, just like you would for your physical office. This can mean many things, like making sure your employees have all the work equipment they need, like monitors, headsets or ergonomic chairs. Offer delivery from your office of essesntials that will keep them comfortable working at home. Also make sure your employees have ways of accessing your online document storage spaces, a good internet connection, and the an ability to host and record client calls. Schedule time for team instruction and demos on how to access these features from home as not everyone may not have done it before.
It’s pivotal to remember that this is not a typical “working from home” scenario. A phrase we use on repeat is: “You are not working from home. You are at home during a pandemic trying to work.”
That’s why flexibility is important right now, especially as it pertains to scheduling. People’s homes are now functioning as offices, schools and safe spaces – often all at once. Allowing your employees the flexibility to take care of the issues that might be arising at home means that their work time can be maximumly productive. It’s also key to note that it may not be mentally or physically possible for your employees to be as productive as they usually are at this time. Recognizing this with your team will help alleviate pressure.
Consider the timing of team calls as well based on new family circumstance, and make sure your employees feel comfortable asking for changes to their schedule. Allowing your employees some flexibility in defining their workday means that their time will be used most effectively, and you can get the best out of each member of your team.
4. Small comforts go a long way
It also doesn’t hurt to provide small comforts to your team members to keep them feeling acknowledged and engaged. Something as small as a desk item with a reminder of a team motto – or a care package of coffee or snacks – can go a long way in these times of isolation. This is also a good opportunity to shop local and support small businesses with your purchases.
Some teams have found ways to combine these care packages with team activities beyond typical team-building. Things like cocktail kits that everyone can make at home and have for the team happy hour (non-alcoholic options available too), or recipe kits, or a craft, all function as a way to bring the team closer together.
5. Continuous communication & acknowledgement
We all have a lot of questions right now, and while you probably don’t have all the answers, anticipating and addressing your employees’ questions can be a comfort itself. Consider what communication is valuable right now and what is over-communicating (we’ve all had ZOOM burnout). Some questions that might be on your team’s mind are:
- How is the company doing?
- Are we considering staff or salary reductions?
- Are there plans to reopen offices? And do I have to go back if they do?
Discussing these things openly with your team shows you are anticipating their concerns and are being transparent. This itself can help ease anxieties. Continuously keeping your team in the loop makes them feel that a plan is in place, especially in these times when so much changes so quickly.
Image via Forbes/Thought Catalog/Unsplash