“One of the most important things you can do is communicate with your employees.” (CNBC)
As the coronavirus pandemic spreads further and further across the world, we are seeing millions of employees packing their bags and setting up shop at home.
This global boom in remote working brings with it many challenges for team and company leaders.
Clearly, the impact of this newly distributed workplace on employee engagement, sense of belonging, productivity, and morale is profound. In fact, according to a recent survey by Forrester:
- 53% of US workers are afraid of the spread of the coronavirus
- 29% are afraid to go to work due to risk of exposure
- 45% believe that their work life will be disrupted by the coronavirus
Since these preliminary findings were published on March 11, and the spread of the virus has grown considerably since then, it is highly likely that these numbers would be much higher had the survey been conducted today (late March).
No effort too big
In an effort to assuage employees’ sense of fear, risk, and disruption, organizations around the world are taking bold steps:
- Walmart: employees concerned about the coronavirus can stay home ‘without penalty’ (New York Post)
- Starbucks is offering free therapy to all workers (Wall Street Journal)
- Amazon launched a $25 million relief fund for delivery drivers and seasonal employees (CNBC)
- NYC’s hotel workers union is offering members coronavirus testing (New York Daily News)
The role of employee communication
However, with many of these workers now at home, we would say that the most important job of the organization’s leadership is to establish an internal communication framework that puts everyone’s mind at ease, establishes a sense of stability and safety, and provides hope – and does so on a regular basis.
The importance of the role of effective employee communication in times of crisis cannot be understated. In a study of this very topic conducted following the events of 9/11, many employees noted how important it was to “hear the voice of the leader.”
COVID-19 times call for different measures
But, communicating with employees in the days of the COVID-19 is not like communicating during other crisis situations.
The fact that most (if not all) employees (as is the case in many organizations today) are not even in the office, but working from home – presents so many additional challenges and questions, such:
- Platform? which is preferred – internal portal, email, chat (e.g. Lync, Whatsapp), corporate social media (e.g. Yammer), collaboration (e.g. Slack)?
- Frequency? once per week/month/quarter?
- Format? text, video, webinars?
- Communicator? CEO, senior leadership, middle management, etc.?
- Topics? global/local/company updates, “simple” reassurance, tips for working from home? other?
Tips for communicating through the crisis
When it comes to platform and frequency, Paul Argenti, Professor of Corporate Communication at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, suggests that during the COVID-19 pandemic, information should be communicated through “a highly visible location,” whether physical or virtual, and at a frequency of no less than every other day.
Clearly, the importance of ongoing engagement cannot be understated.
As for who should be the communicators – in times of such great uncertainty and widespread fear, receiving comfort from leadership, means receiving regular communication from every level of the organization, from team leaders to the chief executive, and all the relevant managers in between.
These communicators should be sharing updates with their employees regarding all topics that are relevant to the pandemic and to the employee’s own personal and professional experience, both regarding their participation in the corporate community and their inclusion in local and global communities.
Why video is still king
The most effective and engaging format is video. It has been noted before – employee communications that are articulated through video earn a 3x higher click-through rate than any other type of content.
There is nothing like video to inspire intimacy and to convey authenticity. There is no substitute for being able to see the expression on the speaker’s face and for observing their body language, while hearing the tone of their voice.
For coronavirus-related communications, video provides an unmatched opportunity to demonstrate:
- Credibility with messages that are communicated openly and honestly
- Empathy by inviting employees to share how this situation is impacting them, expressing personal challenges, concerns, and dilemmas
- Understanding by putting oneself in employees’ shoes, reflecting their anxiety and concerns
- Transparency by explaining the facts and citing the source of information
Each of these are the key to addressing employee needs and expectations from the communications they receive from their leaders, especially in difficult times such as these.
How Wochit can help
As we have seen, with COVID-19 related developments unfolding so quickly, and with employees working from home, there has never been a greater need for frequent, comforting, and informative video communication from all leaders across the organization.
This means that organizations need a way to empower every manager, regardless of their video making skills, to be able to create videos quickly and easily, but which are still professional and on brand.
This is where Wochit Studio comes in. Wochit Studio is an agile video creation platform designed to empower anyone in the organization to create high-quality videos that are deeply engaging and impactful.
And we are proud to play a role in how organizations all over the world are leveraging the power of video to communicate with employees, with authentic and engaging messages of comfort, resilience, and support.