Employee Comms

Coronavirus fallout and the future of work. We ask the experts…


 — April 20th, 2020

Coronavirus fallout and the future of work. We ask the experts…

As some territories tentatively begin returning to work, what impact will the coronavirus have on our office life – and more importantly, on our workforce?

While there are undoubtedly fears over health concerns and long-term economic implications, there are also some positives that we hope will continue long after the pandemic eases.

The significant investment in employee wellbeing, the focus on mindfulness and meditation practices at work, a newfound sense of community and kindness between coworkers, the experimentation with new communication channels, an awareness of whether employees feel connected, and a willingness to step in if not.

Employee communications and coronavirus – How to stay the course through a long crisis

With a distributed workforce, more than half of CIOs point to communication as a key hurdle, according to a recent survey from Adobe. We asked nine communicators to give us their thoughts on the post -COVID-19 workplace:

Siobhan McHale, author of The Insider’s Guide to Culture Change

You can’t predict the future but you can create a more agile, responsive and inventive way of navigating in uncertain times. The companies that survive and thrive through this period of uncertainty will be those with resilient and adaptive cultures.

A more adaptive culture can help you survive through downturns, crises, and market volatility, to prosper over the longer term.

Daniel Lambie, Senior Internal Communications Consultant, scarlettabbott and co-director of IOIC London

This pandemic will result in a significant acceleration in the evolution of our working lives. Virtual and flexible working will become the norm for many more.

Agile and lean processes we have been forced to invent will be adopted and greatly improve efficiency. The realization of the importance of key workers should help us to reinvent the employee experience. The legacy of the economic impact is likely to speed up automation.

Joost Minnaar, co-founder of the Corporate Rebels

Just as World War II opened the door for women to the workforce, COVID-19 sparked a global remote-work experiment that forced firms to suddenly provide the long-sought (and well deserved) freedom and trust to all employees.

During this crisis even the most outdated and command-and-control driven firms are learning the hard way; that people are more productive when trusted and provided with the freedom to manage their own work and life.

It’s sad that it has taken such a traumatic situation to bring many firms to the realization that giving employees freedom and trust is not just possible, but indeed can benefit us all.

I don’t think this genie is going back into the bottle in our past-corona workplaces. In fact, remote working is here to stay for the entire workforce and will no longer be an outdated management privilege.

Katie Wagner, VP, Culture and Experience Design, Liquid Agency

COVID-19 has taught us that it is possible for many people to work from home. While not ideal, we will see a more distributed workforce that makes employee communications and channels more important than ever. Companies will invest heavily into developing truly “consumer-grade” communications to better connect with their workforce —both in the new normal and in potential future disruptions.

Rob Shimmin, Crisis Communications Expert and Managing Director of Shimmin Communications

Past motivations of salary, seniority, and savings may be far less effective in the future. A COVID-19 driven reassessment means the mix of benefits for each employee needs to be as complex as a key. As a coach, I see permanently changed ways of working bringing a new dawn for introverted deep thinkers. Those able to ‘fly solo’ will soar.

Wayne Aspland, Principal, The Content Factory, and Communications Advisor, ANZ

The new world of work will be defined by a weak economy, withering change and accelerated automation. Ironically, this sobering outlook could well be the making of Internal Comms. Employees will need clarity and guidance more than ever before. Meanwhile, organisations will be desperate to make the most of their investment in people. By sharpening our focus on building employee productivity, IC can play a role in achieving both outcomes. In doing so, we could lift our bottom-line impact to new heights.

Jill Leake, Director of JL Communications

One of the greatest impacts of COVID-19 will be the move to more permanent/flexible working from home. I believe Line Managers will play an essential role in this change, acting as a vital link between Senior Leadership and remote employees.

With this new way of working comes a need for greater focus on human skills such as communication, trust, empathy, nurturing and collaboration.

In order to retain and grow our best remote workers, we will need to develop Line Managers with the tools and skills to recognize the increased importance of connecting with their teams on this personal level.

Tchicaya (Ellis) Robertson, Senior Principal, Accenture

Looking at the trends we’re seeing from Accenture’s Covid-19 research tracker, I would estimate that remote working will be a mainstay for more workers in the future.

The catastrophic uptick in remote work, due to the pandemic, will level out. However, the frequency and/or incidence of remote work will likely not revert back to pre-COVID-19 levels. This will indeed create a new normal for how we structure, measure, and promote employee experiences.

Anuja Kale Agarwal, Director of Communications & PR, Info-Tech Research Group

In a really short time, we have seen ‘accelerated change’ in motion, a concept that was talked about for decades but was slow in implementation. Almost overnight, organizations, leaders, and teams have had to come together to use all available tools of technology, to communicate and collaborate and keep businesses up and running.

Traditionally overlooked “support functions” like HR and Communications have become core to delivery, and are making a strategic difference by partnering with the c-suite and the IT function, to provide policies, guides, tools, and templates - to ensure that employees are supported and enabled. Clearly, this is a trend that will continue beyond this pandemic and establishes a new work order.

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