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by Rachel Goddard

April 9th, 2020

Internal Communications in times of crisis

As we adapt to new ways of working and try to continue with ‘business as usual’, there has been a plethora of information for business owners about government support schemes, grants and advice on furloughing staff. Although, this has been helpful, it can sometimes be overwhelming and confusing.

Whilst wellbeing and mental health have been high on the list of discussion topics, we have noticed, however, that there has been less advice on communications within businesses.

In our experience, ‘internal communications’ is something that businesses can struggle with even at the best of times. Silo working, misinformation and other challenges can happen even when everyone is in one office. So what do you do when some of your team are working remotely? Now, more than ever, employee engagement and strong, structured compassionate communications is very important so we’ve pulled together some pointers to help businesses.

1. Look after your team and check up on them. The health and wellbeing of your team will be teetering on an edge through this emotional time and they will value the support you give them. Sustain a happy, healthy and productive team by encouraging regular breaks, exercise and fun activities! Circulate articles with useful advice and point them in the direction of good webinars. Be flexible and understanding about their state of mind and what they will be juggling at home.

2. Be as transparent as you can. It is a time of unprecedented uncertainty, of change and of anxiety in both your teams personal and work lives. Everyone is digesting the news daily, be it on TV, newspapers or social media, so stories of companies going under, mass furloughing and cost cutting will make them question their position and add to their worry. Businesses can help to reduce this by being as honest as they can about what lies ahead. Understandably nothing is certain, however, even just telling people that helps to settle their concerns and builds trust.

3. Create a sense of togetherness. As a nation, we are in this together. However, when you’re self isolating, unable to see family, friends or colleagues, it’s hard to remember. If your work can make you feel connected to others, people will value that. Replicate your ‘normal’ team meetings and office chat as best you can using software such as Zoom, Slack WhatsApp and Microsoft Teams.

4. Dealing with furloughing. If you need to furlough some of your employees, the first thing is to communicate openly and honestly with all of the team. In times of uncertainty it is even more important to build trust and integrity and you will be grateful you did when things get back to ‘normal’.

• Remember to be ‘human’ about explaining the furloughing process and treat people as individuals. Whilst there are contractual issues to consider, you can still speak to them on a phone or video call and help them to understand the decision and the longer term view of the business.

• Even when people are furloughed, you can still speak to them about non business related (by that we mean conversations that aren’t actual work) and include them in virtual chats so that they still feel some sense of ‘team and continuing to check in with them’. How valued they feel now will be important when ‘normal’ returns and you need them to return to work.

5. Structure your communications. People feel most valued when they are well informed and have a sense of purpose. Well structured, regular communication will help them to focus on what is important, feel part of the team and to be a part of the company’s culture and values.

• Regular team meetings. Use this time to have regular team meetings even if you didn’t previously. It’s a chance to keep everyone informed, keep your team connected and for managers to check in with their team on a personal and professional note.

• Uplevel your internal communications activities. Your team may be connected, but do they feel in tune with the rest of the company? Start or continue to send out a daily blog and a weekly internal e-newsletter. You can include team, client and company news.

• Celebrate ‘wins’ and positives and acknowledge your team’s contribution as much as you can. Remind your team about the company's successes BC (before Covid-19) and share client feedback to remind them about why they enjoy working where they do.

• Remember to still have 1:1s with your team. Some of your team may appear to be holding it together on your group calls; however deep down they could be struggling with self-motivation, personal issues or a feeling of a lack of purpose. As we know in ‘normal’ working life, 1:1’s bring huge benefits to the individual and team and should be encouraged even during remote working.

• Make it fun. Mix in your more formal structured communications with some fun more social activities to enhance the team feeling and reduce social isolation. Quiz nights, Zoom fitness activities and informal virtual coffees in the garden are some of the ideas we have heard about.

6. Talk about their personal lives. People are craving human connection, especially those who are self isolating alone or away from their families. Create a WhatsApp group within teams and share news of your everyday life, photos of your home office, your dog or what you decided to do for your government-allotted daily exercise!

Use this time to help build a stronger, more loyal team that will continue to serve your business well beyond this crisis. Keep your team connected and remember: be human. Businesses who practice compassionate communications will come out on top.

Our Managing Director, Rachel, will be delving deeper into ‘Internal communications in times of crisis’ in a new video series with friends of Intandem Nat McMillian, HR Consultant, and expert in employee engagement, Michelle Mook, Managing Director of Pro-Development. Watch out on LinkedIn and Twitter!!

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