6 Positive Ways Covid-19 has Impacted Organizational Communication
— October 28th, 2021
Apart from the word ‘unprecedented’ being used an unprecedented number of times, Covid-19 has had a huge impact on organizational communication, a lot of which is good.
We’ve also seen an elevation of the communication function and its crucial role in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of employees.
Here are six ways organizations have navigated their way through the pandemic with effective employee communication.
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1. Physical AND mental wellbeing has become front and center
Organizations quickly realized that the pandemic was not just a matter of physical wellbeing but their employees’ mental wellbeing was also at stake.
Workplaces now seem much more comfortable talking about mental health; using surveys to check in on how people are feeling, and offering support such as wellbeing days, yoga, meditation, and even laughter therapy.
The words “mental health” have been used in employee communication more times in the last 18 months than in my whole career. This awareness and acceptance of mental health issues is a welcome and necessary shift forward.
2. Leaders have become more human
Nobody has escaped the impact of Covid. It has been really refreshing to hear leaders being open about their own struggles and sharing strategies they are using to stay productive and sane – like switching off notifications, going for a walk, or reducing the length of meetings.
Showing vulnerability is essential in building trust and elevating team performance.
We’ve now also got a window into people’s homes – we can see the books on their shelves, what’s hanging on their walls, their partners, kids, and pets.
As one leader put it, “The pandemic has shown us in our rawest form. Dogs enter the room, kids enter the room and it doesn’t matter anymore.”
Working online has meant we dress more informally. We see the C-Suite in t-shirts and pullovers in place of suits. Women are wearing less makeup. All of this contributes to making leaders more approachable.
3. Technology has connected us in new ways
Organizations have realized the importance of connection in a way perhaps they didn’t pre-pandemic. Entire workforces adapted to new digital collaboration platforms, file sharing, and videoconferencing to enable them to stay connected while working from home.
Previously used just in the personal domain, WhatsApp exploded as another way for teams to engage more informally. Some people have even said they feel more connected than before.
Of course, the benefits of face-to-face communication can never be completely replaced by online.
Some employees prefer to be in the office to connect with their colleagues (or run from young children!), and some employees aren’t in jobs that allow them to work from home, but the shift towards digital collaboration opens up many more options.
As always, the approach must be employee-centric across multiple channels and delivered seamlessly for the best employee experience.
4. Creativity has flourished
Looking for new ways to make online meetings and events more engaging, we’re seeing some great innovation occur. It’s not unusual to spice up your quarterly update with a drag queen host or have a guest speaker on anything from resilience to cocktail making.
People are embracing online quizzes, competitions, and video content to break up presentations.
All-day workshops are being condensed into snappier sessions as we struggle to stare into screens for extended periods.
Session materials along with tasty snacks are being delivered to people’s homes. With a more informal tone being embraced across the physical and digital realms, the opportunity has grown for more out-of-the-box thinking.
5. Purpose and values have taken on an even more important role
The pandemic has been an opportunity for organizations to really lean in to their purpose and values.
While they have always been used to inspire, engage and motivate, when it’s not business as usual they take on an even more important role - really difficult decisions and uncomfortable conversations can be guided by these levers with confidence.
Communicators play a crucial role in drawing the link between organizational action and its purpose and in calling out discrepancies.
Not adhering to your stated purpose and values could have extremely negative consequences for your organization, its customers, employees, and the wider community.
6. Internal Communication is having its moment
At the beginning of the pandemic, Communicators found themselves amidst a swarm of new (and changing) health measures that needed to be communicated quickly and accurately across their organizations.
Daily updates captured outcomes from crisis meetings and advised employees about temperature checking facilities, office closures, event cancellations, customer support measures, social distancing, QR codes, hand sanitizing stations, and more.
As a result, there was a noticeable elevation of the communication function – communicators had access to the most senior decision-makers and were at the frontline of shaping their organization’s response to the crisis.
According to findings from the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer ‘employer communications is the most credible source of information about the coronavirus’. It scored well above business in general, NGOs, the government, and the media.
So I want to shout out to all Communicators. Often working around the clock to tight deadlines and in highly scrutinized roles. You all have been pivoting your little socks off. Well done to all of you!
The next new normal
Achieving a sense of belonging among employees is increasingly critical and considerably more complex than it used to be.
How we connect sends a strong message about who we are and what we stand for on the path ahead.
As McKinsey says, “A leader’s words and actions can help keep people safe, help them adjust…cope emotionally… and draw meaning from [their experience].”
We now have an excellent springboard from which we can all continue to be more authentic, creative, and values-driven in our communication.
I do hope these changes remain.
Actually, let’s do more than hope - let’s make it our mission to ensure they do.