Communicating your back to work plan while we have all been living amidst a pandemic for more than six months may be at the top of your to-do list now that many of us are starting to embrace and adapt to our new reality.
COVID-19 has fundamentally transformed the way we interact with our clients, the way employees prefer to work, and it will undoubtedly forever transform the way we conduct business as a whole. As restrictions begin to lift, new cases begin to decline (if only temporarily) and employees begin to return to offices, there is now more than ever a greater need to communicate effectively to all of your stakeholders.
How we all handle re-integration may not only affect your business productivity but also employee morale and engagement and even your company’s overall reputation.
Helpful Guidelines for Communicating Your Back to Work Plan
While it is clear we may never return to the same workplace environment that existed before COVID-19, following a few guidelines may steer your business towards a more welcomed and seamless return to the new standard of daily operations.
- Never forget the fundamentals of communications. As we’ve discussed in the past, there are foundational principles of messaging that should be incorporated into every communication during this time. Using brevity, empathy, transparency and solutions are the key to keeping your stakeholders engaged. Too often people consider these tenets as only the core of crisis communications, however, they need to be considered in any situation especially now.
- Focus on the now. The one thing that has remained true throughout the pandemic is that nothing remains the same. Our predictions made in April hardly resemble today’s reality. For that reason, we must be ready to adapt again, and again, and again. Do not paint yourself into a corner with written in stone policies and protocols. Don’t set policies that assume a set future. Leave yourself room to evaluate your policies regularly and communicate that you will update your policies just as frequently. This also means that you need to provide channels of communications back to your leadership so that employees not only feel heard but also find it easy to communicate.
- Make sure you have clear and monitored channels of communication. In a recent survey by PWC, they discovered that 83% of organizations didn’t have a process or system to communicate quickly with their employees. Now is the time to make sure that you have effective channels of communication that can reach every employee relatively quickly. That may be on an internal portal, email, chat platforms such as Slack, or simply by phone. Having strong communications and messaging doesn’t matter if a number of your employees never receive that message quickly.
- Communicate plans beyond your employees. While it is always critical to communicate clearly to your employees, be cognizant of the broad range of stakeholders that may be entering your office space or simply interacting with your employees. This will include clients, vendors, and even family members of your employees. We work in complex environments, don’t overlook a third party that may undermine all the efforts you have done to date if not addressed in your policy.
- Keep your people front of mind. There is no question that the bottom line of all organizations has been affected by the pandemic, yet the impact on the morale of our employees and colleagues has been something that has often been overlooked in the interest of keeping a company moving forward. Do not forget as the leader of an organization that you are responsible for not only rallying the troops but also being the calming force across the organization that provides guidance in the chaos. Make sure that you communicate often.
Navigating the complexity of internal communications can be difficult, especially in these chaotic times. Don’t let the fundamentals of how you typically communicate disappear when you need them most.