We are living in truly unprecedented times. There are few people whose home and work lives remain unaffected by COVID-19. Many have been forced to self-isolate due to symptoms of possible coronavirus, while the rest of us are required to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary. Some industries have shut down completely; others are experiencing unprecedented demand with businesses scaling frantically to meet it.
But for many typical office workers, perhaps the biggest change has been enforced homeworking. What was once a perk is now a mandated norm. For those businesses yet to fully embrace remote working policies and technology, the last few weeks may have typified by attempts to organise chaos and adopt innovation.
As an integrated agency with offices across the UK, servicing an internationally-operating client base, all of our teams have been able to work remotely seamlessly for years.
Here are three steps we think will help you adapt to these new restrictions – and set you in good stead for a more agile way of working when the pandemic is over.
PRIORITISE MENTAL HEALTH AND COMPANY CULTURE
The sudden nature of the restrictions imposed on daily life have left many frantically scrambling with logistical and operational challenges to keep business as close to usual as is possible during this crisis.
But in doing so, it’s vitally important to consider what impact enforced WFH will have on both individuals’ health and wellbeing, and on wider company culture.
Home life isn’t always a relaxing tonic to a stressful job. Many people will have dependents whose care will need to be prioritised alongside their work. Several of our own team have become home tutors on top of their day job – as have vast swathes of the business community.
Some people will really miss the in-person interaction that comes with office working; others will find it hard to switch off from work when their desk doubles as their dining table.
Honesty, transparency and empathy are all important to tackle any of these issues. Flexible start and finish times are a simple but invaluable way to support people with multiple demands on their time. LinkedIn is full of innovative ideas businesses are trialling to preserve company culture and reduce feelings of isolation.
Groundbreaking it is not, but we’ve found simply moving Friday post-work drinks from the pub to Zoom, to work really well.
COMMUNICATE THE CHANGES
Business continuity is on everyone’s minds at the moment, but how you choose to work will have implications for your day-to-day operations. Make sure your people, clients, customers, and where appropriate, the wider world know how you’re adapting.
There’s a tendency to become insular and wind down external communication in uncertain times. But all of your audiences will be looking for reassurance that you are putting in place the policies and infrastructure to continue to operate.
Many will be grappling with similar logistical challenges. There’s no face to be lost in empathetic and honest communication when the entire country is adapting to unprecedented circumstances.
Be sure to give equal thought to internal communications too. As a discipline which usually concedes the limelight to PR and social media campaigns, this crisis has placed it front and centre.
When you may be months off spending time in the same room together, getting the tone and language right in internal emails has never been more important.
It’s too late for my sister as her employer made her redundant on Tuesday by text message after 6 years !!!!
For employees who may be asked to accept reduced hours and pay, or be furloughed for an extended period of time, a poorly worded note can easily be interpreted the wrong way.
INNOVATE WITH VIDEO TECHNOLOGY
The most obvious change in moving to a remote working is the loss of in-person interaction communication. We have long championed the use of video conferencing to reduce unnecessary business travel and to allow us to operate more sustainably.
Video-messaging platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams go some way to filling the void here and their use is perhaps obvious for scheduled meetings.
Outside of these times, however, it can be difficult to replace the impromptu brain storms, or chance conversations in the kitchen which can occasionally spark a bright idea.
While not a direct replacement, we’d recommend taking inspiration from Twitter. The social platform’s co-founder and CEO took his workforce remote quite quickly in comparison to the rest of corporate America. To replace those serendipitous interactions, the company has pioneered ‘virtual water coolers’: always-on video conferencing channels that employees can dial in and out during a break from scheduled work.
If you’d like to discuss how we can support you with any external or internal communication challenges posed by COID-19, please get in touch.
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