Canceled events. Self-imposed quarantine. Widespread uncertainty.
These are just a few of the issues businesses everywhere are facing due to the COVID-19 outbreak. People are worried about finding enough toilet paper. They’re scared of loved ones (or themselves) getting sick. With the constant barrage of disheartening headlines, it’s no wonder everyone feels a little more on edge.
From a business standpoint, the pandemic has led to waves across the internal communication landscape. Among the biggest waves is many organizations’ abrupt shifts to remote workforces to prevent the virus’s spread, protecting employee and customer health. This can be an unfamiliar situation for employees, managers and customers alike. But as with any crisis, communication is critical to soothing nerves and maintaining business productivity.
We’ll leave the medical advice to the CDC. But here are some helpful communication guidelines for businesses going remote.
Lead by Example and Foster Trust
CEOs must be willing to take the first steps toward a digital-first work culture. They might be active on message boards, chat rooms and schedule video meetings. They can encourage their employees to find webinars to support professional growth from home; for example, LinkedIn provides a series of free webinars to learn important tools to support remote workforces.
Importantly, business leaders should take breaks and not work absurdly long hours – showing employees it’s okay to log off when the workday is done. When those in charge show enthusiasm about remote work, employees are more likely to follow suit.
Emphasize Your Company’s Mission, Goals and Expectations
During times of dramatic transition, it may be helpful to reiterate your company’s ultimate vision, echoing to employees what’s important and why they’re valued. You may also want to provide a clear list of goals and expectations to keep your workforce focused and help them understand their responsibilities and tasks even when working remotely. When your team can unite behind a shared vision, collaboration across geographical locations and time zones becomes much easier.
Find the Right Tools for Your Team
Digital tools are necessary for project collaboration, maintaining communication with partners and vendors and providing relevant updates while working remotely. You probably already use email, but there are several tools out there that amplify and elevate digital internal communications. A few of our personal favorites:
- Microsoft Teams – Oh, what would Aker Ink do without Teams? With chat and video features, as well as a team message board, we love it for team meetings and sharing interesting news articles. It also integrates with other Office365 programs.
- Monday – This app makes project management and keeping track of numerous moving parts stress-free. You can assign specific tasks to employees and they can update their progress.
- Slack – Slack is a one-stop shop for your business’s communication needs, providing organized conversation threads and searchable history and allow collaboration with people outside your team, such as clients, vendors and partners.
Remain Compassionate and Transparent
As always, prioritize transparency. During stressful times, employees don’t want to feel like they’re left in the dark. Executives should be open and communicative across channels, proactively addressing challenges instead of hiding behind the proverbial digital wall. By displaying diplomacy and openness online, your employees are more likely to follow for your example (and you’ll avoid rumors and other issues from developing).
Embrace a Cultural Shift
As you move from in-person to digital interactions, retain as much of your company culture as possible. While you might be “social distancing,” employees will still want the positive reinforcement, interpersonal experiences and personality that was encouraged when you were still at the office. This can still be accomplished through online communications, perhaps sharing funny GIFs or memes for everyone to relate to, especially thankful chat messages or emails and online gifts (such as audiobooks!) for employees who need or deserve it.
The coronavirus is on everyone’s mind now. But with or without COVID-19, many businesses are going remote – these tips can be applied to approach future transitions logically and strategically. The communications and PR professionals at Aker Ink can guide you through these challenges, ensuring all shareholders, customers, employees and the media are kept in the loop. Stay healthy, everyone!