COVID-19, a term that was heard in the headlines early this year, is now something everyone is familiar with, merely because it has completely changed how humans lived their life. Two significant workplace attributes that existed Pre-COVID such as "working remotely" and "work from home" have merged and are no longer used as exceptions.
Debates are going on about the significance of physical workplaces in future, especially for occupations that are 'workplace agnostic'. All of these sudden changes are new to everyone, a learning curve for all of humanity. Many of us are thrilled with the idea of working from the comfort of our home. Still, with businesses going virtual, it's not certain if we have factored the upcoming impact on our internal communication due to most of us working from home.
The stories are giving vivid judgements, and it'll take a while to understand what will sustain and for how long. Even if we can achieve more while working from home, that does not necessarily mean that we have stopped loving physical offices. We are missing informal communication that was one of the most important legacies of physical workplaces. Physical offices used to give us a better perspective on employees satisfaction.
After an extended work from home routine, this situation has become more challenging for the employees as everyone is adjusting to this new work style without compromising on the quality of work. While working from home, our family commitments and challenges are right in front of our eyes, making it impossible to ignore them. Not everyone can draw a straight line between office and family in this new normal. There are physical constraints as well, as not every one may be having a dedicated workspace to achieve maximum productivity in their house. With schools and offices running simultaneously, its not easy to escape from the family life during office hours.
Physical offices taught us to pay more attention to external communication, such as customers or partners. However, work from home culture needs more focused on internal communication. The channel for informal face-to-face communication has suddenly vanished and replaced by online meetings. It can be said that we are heading towards an emotional crisis if we do not reinvent our internal communication strategy. We need to bring this challenge to the forefront of every organization.
While companies are figuring out various ways to keep their employees engaged, we are not sure whether these initiatives are working or not. The situation is new for everyone, and it is too early to declare a success story. Many companies have hired external agencies to bridge this gap by offering a variety of so-called engaging activities such as online courses, fitness sessions, meditations, fun events, cookery classes and whatnot. This gives me a feeling that we are going through the phase of so-called Human Resource Trials to figure out a super strategy vaccine for improving internal communication or employee engagement during COVID-19. Some companies have taken an approach of hiring external consultants to improve their employee engagements. These external consulting companies are instead fighting a similar war internally.
There are no rulebooks or questions and answer banks available to address current communication challenges. Besides, there is no book such as "COVID HR for Dummies". Not every activity is important from an employee's perspective. If you want to improve internal communication with remote workers, treat their perspective and judgement as a most valuable asset. We have to ask a few straight questions to our employees: a) What are you missing the most while working from home? b) How do you see the role of HR when you are working from home permanently?
The questions would vary from company to company depending upon their experiences so far. When we initiate a survey, give everyone a chance to express themselves anonymously. The idea is not to know who has written what, but to understand what exactly are their challenges while working from home. Anonymity gives more confidence to an employee, and that becomes the first step to re-activate our informal channel of communication. We call such feedbacks as "Voice Of Heaven". Do such surveys frequently, and we'll figure out our vaccine, something that would surely work for our company.
One of the tools that may help companies to improve internal communication is Intranet. Due to COVID and work from home culture, the status of Intranet has changed from "Good to have" to "Must Have". These tools can help you launch such employee surveys with anonymity. If you are using Microsoft Teams, then you can evaluate our modern workplace technology called Titan Workspace for initiating your survey.