COVID-19 has upended every part of business life and forced us all to find new ways to work virtually. Fortunately, the vital communications function of nearly any public, private or nonprofit can be executed anywhere so long as a team has computers, phones and internet access.
Technology alone will not ensure success. Succeeding at communications is key to not just surviving, but thriving in the midst of this crisis with high stakes, no playbook and no end in sight. It requires steady-handed leadership, good instincts, strong controls and a healthy dose of humanity.
Those able to adapt and innovate could emerge from these uncharted waters stronger and more resilient—and poised for a higher level of achievement. As we’ve all quickly learned, working from home dictates new work patterns, policies and methods of communication, as well as an unprecedented amount of flexibility.
If your organizational chart and management structure is unclear, this is a crucial time to fix that. Old-school leaders will learn that they don’t need to see someone face to face to ensure that they’re working. But it’s still necessary to be clear about who is ensuring the productivity and work product across all staff and teams. Here is some guidance for you and your employees:
1. Set a start and end time for the workday and create boundaries. Don’t spend the day mixing in personal tasks. Get physically ready to shift into work mode—don’t just shuffle over the screen in your fuzzy slippers. Have a designated workspace that’s quiet and conducive to work.
2. Have regular team and staff-wide check-ins. Technology can bridge the loneliness and provide needed human interaction, but don’t leave that to chance. Video platforms like Facebook Live, Zoom, Google hangouts or GoToMeeting add the warmth and connection that comes from seeing your colleagues.
3. Rally the team. It’s the daily responsibility of leaders to rally the team, lighten the mood and inject some fun and constant support into a dark and scary time. Stay positive and help your team members find the blessings and the humor in every day—and be a trusted source of information.
4. Don’t radiate stress, even if you feel it. Provide regular updates, dispel rumors and misinformation, and if there’s bad news, make sure you’re the one to share it. Keep calm, and trust that providing the facts and truth will always be the right path to follow.
5. Do a regular temperature check on your team’s mood. Acknowledge the effects that fear, stress and uncertainty have on many people who may be experiencing greater levels of anxiety and depression. Connect them to counseling, financial advice and other resources as needed. Encourage them to bring up problems and offer to help solve them. This is also a great time to show a little extra love in the ways you can, whether it’s providing a voucher for a takeout meal or helping your team access things that are in short supply.
This is a profoundly human crisis and we’re all in this together. By taking care of our employees, our customers and our community at a time like this, you’ll build bonds that will never be shaken. Now is when we show what we’re made of, and that’s an impression that will last for a very long time.
Michelle Ubben is president & partner of Sachs Media Group.
Learn the best ways to engage employees at our upcoming Best Practices in Internal Communications & Culture Virtual Conference.