Navigating Communication During Covid-19
Sometimes it feels like it was just a few days ago that we were all saying, “Have you heard about the coronavirus? Do you think it will affect us?” Now, months later, it’s completely changed our lives. Think of it this way, if we were in a movie, back in March the foreboding narrator would have said, “Life as they knew it would never be the same.” Needless to say, the movie has dragged on a bit too long, and I think we all wish that we could turn it off and give it a 1-star rating at best – which is extremely generous.
With that said, saying that the workplace has really changed this year is an understatement. Along with all of the normal changes that a new year brings (marketing tactics, sales tools, technology, trends, and more), this year we’ve been faced with the most impactful (and almost unbelievable) change: a pandemic. This year, it hasn’t been about “keeping up with the times” like it was in 2015, when the Open Concept office floor plans were suddenly all the rage. Instead, change is less about being “trendy”, and more about being safe, and adaptable. Even the more traditional offices can’t afford to lag behind this year. If you haven’t changed your setup and practices, your company simply cannot function.
Evolve or Perish
Like our CEO Jeff Sammak says (even pre-2020), “Evolve or perish”. And this year, if you didn’t evolve, your company either suffered greatly, or completely dissolved. Thankfully, Strata’s been among the lucky few to continue our practice of making smart happen and changing with the very quick times.
The most talked about way (and really the only way) of handling the Covid-19 virus has been to stay home. Unlike other legendary years that have made the history books, we haven’t fought with swords, guns, or even words. No, we’ve fought with boredom (and maybe our siblings and spouses). We’ve fought with being couped up, and when it came to the workplace, not being able to be face-to-face, in-office, and conducting work as usual.
On the other hand, companies like Zoom and Microsoft have hit the jackpot, with virtual platforms that figuratively “save the day” for companies needing to change their methods of communication.
So, other than utilizing Zoom and Teams, how did Strata save our metaphorical ship and keep our business afloat? We followed a few best practices and, of course, learned some things along the way. Here’s where we’ve landed:
How to Best Navigate Communication During Covid-19
During a time like this, it’s important to keep an open mind when it comes to new practices and processes. No answer is wrong until its proven not to work. “Leaders may be tempted to withdraw into small, tight decision-making task forces to make key decisions as quickly as possible. Instead, they can use this moment to define and demonstrate a common sense of purpose with employees, who will be looking for leadership and ways to engage themselves,” (McKinsey). Change always takes a lot of ideas from different perspectives, and a lot of trial and error – and change in 2020 is no exception to the rule.
Utilize Helpful Communication Tools
Again, coming to a decision on the right tools, and ones that seamlessly work together, can take a ton of trial and error. At Strata, we were using Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Outlook, and a few other platforms that felt to be working at first, but lacked compatibility. Eventually, we found what worked together, and worked for us – Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Outlook, Wrike, and various other platforms that worked better in unison. Teams messaging and calling has been an excellent communication tool, as all of our communication can be found in one place, and employees can control if and when they’re available to talk. Having the option to be away, available, busy, do not disturb, and more creates a more office-like communication experience without feeling too detached from coworkers. Wrike, a project management system, has helped us to stay on-task, work effectively together, and not let anything fall behind. And of course, calls and email as usual are always staples too.
This year we’ve seen a huge spike in online hackers, with an increased risk of viruses and malware. It’s extremely important to not only warn employees of these risks, but thoroughly explain how, when, and where these problems can occur. An open line of communication is paramount to ensuring the safety of a company’s proprietary information. Establish trust with each other, and ensure employees that, if they call you asking if you “sent this email”, it’s not a bother.
Be Aware & Show You Care
Although there’s no longer an “open door policy” like before, make sure you have an “open (computer) window” policy. “Leaders are important sources of resilience for their people—and also important factors in post-traumatic growth following crisis,” (McKinsey). Check in on not only the work and progress of employees, but their mental well-being as well. Ask them how they’re doing, how they’re feeling, and assure them that no questions are “dumb” questions. None of us have ever been through this before, so an open, understanding line of communication is ultimately the best method for the safety and well-being of staff. Additionally, a company’s culture is only as good as its values. In tough times, continuously reinforcing your mission, values, vision, and appreciation is extremely paramount to not only keeping employees comfortable, but motivated and driven. “At this time of heightened anxiety…succinctly communicating facts, feelings, and actions is more important than ever before. Managers must carefully listen to employees and openly communicate what is known (facts), how they feel about it (feelings), and what they are doing about it (actions),” (Risk and Resilience Hub).
Lastly, don’t forget to have a little fun and socialize! A great way to do this is with a Zoom or Microsoft Teams happy hour! It may not be quite the same as face-to-face interaction at the office, but it’s a close second and creates a sense of community (which we’ll take at the moment!). Don’t forget to implement activities and create bonding experiences, even if they’re virtual, to continue team-building and keep up employee morale. Because, like we’ve said in the past, happy employees equal happy customers.