We’ve all read articles or seen research about what makes some companies such great places to work. Often, they talk about the culture and how these organizations typically have something in common. They’ve created a sense of teamwork among employees. People think about their company as a family.
We can all certainly understand the importance of community. After all, it can feel like we spend more time with our work colleagues than we do with our real families. And we all want to belong to something bigger than ourselves and gives us a sense of pride.
But what happens when, suddenly, that “family” resides beneath different roofs. Or that the “team” occupies separate locker rooms?
Well, we don’t need to wonder “what if?”
We’re living through that scenario with the global health crisis. Our routines have been completely disrupted. We’re working in different places – likely our homes. Unexpectedly, we find ourselves juggling issues like childcare that have thrown work-life balance into chaos. We’re all practicing “social distancing” as best we can.
As communicators, our roles have never been more critical. We’re all probably feeling that weight on our shoulders, too. We’re crafting and sharing critical messages to keep employees informed and safe. Communicators are also counseling leaders on what they should be saying to the workforce, encouraging them to remain visible, and listening to some of the biggest fears and concerns from employees.
Never before has clarity, tone, and finding the right words mattered this much.
People are hungry for news and information. A new Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report found that “employee communications” is the most credible source of coronavirus (COVID-19) information – more than government or the media.
But I would also suggest that something else is even more vital than the information we’re providing.
It’s a sense of connection.
Before I go any further, let me offer a caveat. I am not an expert in mental health, emotional well-being, or anything else that helps people cope with a crisis. I’m a communicator. It’s something I’ve done throughout my business career. But you also don’t need to have your own therapist’s couch to know what’s going through the minds of employees. It’s the same thing that you’re probably experiencing.
To some degree, we’re all anxious, uncertain, and searching for reassurance.
Communicators are the conduit for the information that people want and need. But we’re also a lifeline to that work family. We’re keeping the employer-employee bonds strong at a time when it’s far too easy for them to loosen.
We’re helping our companies pull together even as we’re staying apart.
Our society has never been more interconnected thanks to social media and communication technology solutions. But at the end of the day, tools are just tools. It’s how they’re used that makes a difference. That means using them as a way to show empathy for people who are wrestling with feelings of dislocation, alienation, and isolation.
Maybe they have cabin fever from being self-quarantined. Or perhaps people are overwhelmed by, well, everything. Communicators are trying, as they share information, to let everyone know that they remain an essential part of the company’s family.
A recent Bloomberg article that focused on new collaborating technologies that allow organizations to “communicate synchronously and transparently” touched on that idea.
“… With everyone working feverishly to keep their companies afloat, tempers fraying from being cooped up with children and spouses, and fear about a deadly disease spreading, we should all be expressing more gratitude, not less.”
As humans, we’re wired for connection.
It’s not just with the amazing technologies that power our businesses, but person-to-person. Stronger relationships lead to stronger business outcomes.
I think in normal times, and in a regular work setting, we might take that idea for granted. But not now. That bigger picture matters when your entire organization is disconnected, and yet it still needs to rally together. And I’ve seen some great examples of organizations tending to the “whole person” as communicators provide direction where employees can find resources to help cope with problems ranging from stress to family to financial.
At some point, I suspect that we’re going to settle into this new environment. Or maybe it will be some combination of the way things were and what we can learn from this experience.
But for now, communicators need to be the calm in the storm. They have to maintain some sense of normalcy in these unreal times. A big part of that is ensuring that people know they’re still connected to the organization, wherever they are.
It has been said that people might not remember what you say or do, but they won’t forget how you made them feel. That’s especially the case during these difficult times.