Many companies are looking to get back to the “way it was” as we head into the tail end of 2021. This attempt to resume “normal” operations is presenting unique and unprecedented challenges for employee communicators, who need to address seemingly conflicting workplace issues, including employees who will:
- Go back into the office
- Remain remote workers
- Move out of cities and into a suburban office
- Continue working remotely but now can’t easily commute back into their office
Successfully navigating this communication maze takes far more than creating the right narratives. To ensure maximum engagement, communicators need to approach this challenge like a campaign, using diversified, multi-channel communications rather than just a few emails and intranet postings, and virtual town hall. Most importantly, with everyone overwhelmed with constantly changing situations, communications need to leverage channels like Teams, Yammer, Viva and Slack, getting communications to employees directly in the applications they work with most often.
Missing the mark can be costly. As friction between the employees' wishes and those of the leadership team builds, we are seeing “The Great Resignation”, which according to Holly Corbett in Forbes, is “evidence that employees may be shifting from a “live to work” to “work to live” mindset.”
As Holly points out, “It’s not easy to declare that your priorities are taking care of your mental health or spending more time with your family when we live in a capitalist system that values work above all else. With more companies calling employees back to the office, putting boundaries and the right policies in place is key. After all, the success of companies lies in the engagement, productivity and happiness of the people who work there.”
“With more companies calling employees back to the office, putting boundaries and the right policies in place is key. After all, the success of companies lies in the engagement, productivity and happiness of the people who work there.”
One good way to approach your employees can be to borrow from change management communications. As Shel Holtz says in a recent whitepaper, “the best way to approach back-to-the-office is through the lens of organizational change. After all, for those employees who have been working remotely for the past 15 months, whatever their employer’s new policy is, it will represent a significant change from the way things have been; not just a change from the recent remote-work arrangements but also from pre-pandemic work.”
To manage perceptions, remember that any change can be perceived either as a negative (distress) or a positive (eustress). In Your Brain on Change, Tracy Benson, a change management coach, says “We now know that the brain possesses a remarkable capacity to reorganize pathways, form new connections, and change how its circuits are wired. This is the field known as neuroplasticity. Based on discoveries in this relatively nascent field, we CAN learn to train our brain to interpret incoming stress as an opportunity rather than a threat.” The optimal voice of your narrative would be to acknowledge the negative, while pointing out the positive aspects of, the upcoming changes.
Whatever your company decides for their workforce, make sure that you are communicating with people with more than just a few emails, a post on the intranet and a virtual town hall. Instead, reach people where they are working, and approach the situation like a campaign that will last for months, focusing on change management techniques to get through the adjustment period. After all, with breakthrough cases on the rise, it may be that you’ll be having these discussions with your employees for months to come.
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