Employee communications executives are starting to craft the messaging around the future of a workplace that could be radically different. What might that look like? Are we ready to predict the new normal?

Those are the questions we asked Michelle Projekt - VP, Global Head of Internal Communications at PepsiCo, Margaret-Ann Cole - EVP, Global Talent Leader, Porter Novelli and Patrick O'Connell - Head of Marketing & Communications, KONE Americas in the second installation of our webinar series.

This wildly popular webinar series is co-hosted by Velaku Software and the consulting firm On The Same Page. Click here to watch the full webinar.

Do we know what the “new normal” will look like?

While the short answer is “not specifically”, our panelists outlined their approach and framework for thinking about the new normal, and how they will plan for the future. They outlined four core attributes they feel are critical when considering the future.

1. Emphasize a community-first company focus

For PepsiCo, dealing with an overwhelming demand for their products, “we have a renewed focus on understanding how critical our business is to communities and internally how we can raise awareness of that fact”. 

Porter Novelli released a new study that emphasized the importance of that awareness, citing that 75% of the Americans surveyed feel that “companies need to take a community-first, not shareholder-first approach”.

All the panelists spoke of the connection between employees and the communities in which they live and work, and the importance of not only supporting these connections, but providing employees with the tools and time to implement that support.

For example, to help convey their community focus internally, PepsiCo is sharing content from around the company in consumer messaging, such as notes from store managers on how PepsiCo has helped them transition, celebrity stories, thank you signs, and inspiration from their partners. PepsiCo is also increasing awareness  of their contributions to communities, whether it be financial support or in-kind product donations (e.g., food). Most recently, they surprised Guy Fieri with a donation of $3 million for his  Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (RERF) in an episode of "Some Good News".  

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2. Craft messaging around what going back to work will look and feel like

People need to feel good about going back to work, and more importantly, feel safe. For most, returning to an office or workplace after what may be months of working from home is going to a new experience. Even more potentially discomforting is that the need for social distancing, and likely safety measures like wearing masks, taking temperatures will make ‘reentry’ feel very unnatural.

Michelle said that her communications team is working closely with other key functions - like facilities - as they start to craft messaging about what the new workplace reality will look like.  Her team is helping each of PepsiCo’s offices work through the logistics of new seating, cleaning protocols, meeting dynamics and more. 

3. Choose how work will look going forward

It’s possible ‘maybe everyone doesn’t come to work [at the same time],” Patrick said. At KONE Americas, as in other companies, it’s being recognized that the “work is getting done, it’s just getting done differently.” As a company in the business of moving people - elevators, escalators, etc. - KONE is keenly aware of workplace density and the movement of people. The idea that office layouts will need to change - conference rooms with less seating, workbench seating with more spacing, lobbies with more room for visitors - all starts to paint a picture of changes to the typical 9-5 office-based culture. Patrick suggests that even in a traditional, conservative culture like at KONE, everyone recognizes that things may be done differently.  

If there’s a silver lining from the crisis, it’s a realization that, as Tracy Benson, co-moderator, mentioned, “there’s an opportunity to build back better - and use this unique time to deliberately choose how we want the workplace to look going forward.”

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"Companies need to take a community-first, not shareholder-first approach”. 

- Recent study done by Porter-Novelli

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