69% of US workers of all ages reported that the coronavirus pandemic is the most stressful time of their entire professional career. And where employees may previously have succeeded in managing external stressors and maintaining strong working relationships, the new normal now means unique challenges to healthy workplace communications, especially within remote teams.
Because trusted communication is at the core of building company culture and enhancing employee engagement, it’s crucial that leaders seize the opportunity to meet these new challenges and connect with their teams in thoughtful, intentional ways.
We bring our whole selves to work… and to our communications
Human beings are complex creatures and we cannot simply leave our personal selves at the ‘door’ when we come to work each day. External stressors such as family and relationship dynamics, physical and mental health issues, safety concerns, and financial woes impact the way we express ourselves and how we interpret our colleagues’ messages, whether in person or virtually. Those stressors often contribute to misunderstanding and conflict on teams.
The hastened adoption of virtual workplaces and online learning during this pandemic has caused huge disruptions to employees’ lives and routines. Remote teams may find it more difficult to establish rapport and trust without the daily personal interactions they would normally encounter in an office environment. Learning to implement new collaboration tools while struggling to maintain boundaries between our personal and professional spaces compounds an already-long list of stressors caused by the public health crisis. As employees struggle to cope with feelings of anxiety, stress, loneliness and lack of motivation, it is imperative that leaders model and foster healthy communication.
There are 4 ways to communicate with caring and clarity
- Show you care – Check in with employees regularly. Create safe spaces for them to ask questions and talk about how they’re feeling. Empathize. Problem-solve together.
Studies show that 1 in 3 workers have left a job because they didn't feel their companies cared about them as a person.
- Tap into your emotional intelligence - Listen for understanding and be gracious with others, rather than take things personally or be quick to anger.
Companies that place an emphasis on emotional intelligence (the ability to perceive, evaluate and respond to your own emotions and the emotions of others) report higher levels of productivity and better employee engagement than those that don't.
- Over-communicate – Utilize consistent messaging across different delivery platforms to ensure all workers are well-informed. Provide a clear plan of action as the COVID-19 situation evolves.
- Encourage employees to stay connected and learn from each other - Celebrate new ways of engaging virtually (funny-hat themed lunch break?) or while practicing safe social distancing (bring-your-own-blanket-and-lunch picnic?).
As we - perhaps reluctantly - adapt to the new normal in our workplaces, we have a golden opportunity to demonstrate through intentional, empathetic communication how much we care about our people. It will only strengthen our company culture, now and when we come out of this crisis.