There are precious few positives to have come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, all those weeks working from home have made everyone think differently about work life balance and what is truly important. Many sectors have seen a widespread mindset change, which companies will need to address and, more importantly, embrace.
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for business
As we start to move back into the real world, this change in priorities gives forward-thinking companies a golden opportunity to scrutinise and re-evaluate their working practices and, where necessary, bring about significant organisational change. Post-crisis will be a time to re-connect with every employee, welcome as many of them back as possible, and re-focus on the core values of the business. For some companies, those core values may have changed. Vision statements may need some revision. To get everyone on board, employees will need to know why changes are needed, how they will be implemented and how this will affect their role within the business.
Challenges to effective communication
Obviously, not all organisations will still have the same workforce. Skills gaps will be an issue for many, leading to a serious challenge to any effective communication in the workplace. All businesses will have to define their new normal and communicate this effectively to their workforce. But how? If your organisation is going to be ready, now is the time to start planning your post-COVID communication strategy.
The limitations of online communication
Do ongoing social distancing measures mean that working from home will become the norm? Hopefully not, at least not every day. We know that communication in the workplace will have to change. However, while many organisations – and their employees – will have recognised the benefits of remote, flexible working and online communications, they have also discovered their limitations. How many of us are experiencing Zoom fatigue? Meeting up on screen is useful in a crisis but many people find it flat and socially awkward. Speech is unnatural and stilted, while the camera is a distraction as we tend to sit and look at ourselves. We miss out on participants’ body language and those all-important social signals. It cannot give us the same experience and it is simply not as productive as the real thing.
What have we all missed most in lockdown? Invariably, it is meeting up with family, coffee with friends, a night out at the pub. One thing that isolation has taught us is how much we need real human contact. Sales of board games have rocketed during the crisis as families re-connect with each other, shunning TV and gadgets in favour of enjoying simple pleasures together. Games are synonymous with connection, togetherness and family times like Christmas and birthdays. This type of fun, light-hearted interaction and visual communication will be a hugely important part of bringing workforces back together. Tools such as learning maps and interactive games transcend age, gender and hierarchical barriers. They are a sociable, gentle, yet highly-effective way of getting a message across.
Benefits of offline communication
We are, essentially, social animals. At work, we need people around us, not just for a quick chat about last night’s TV but, more importantly, for our productivity, engagement and mental wellbeing. Working in a bubble has been shown to have a long-term impact on mental health, which is why Wellbeing is set to be the number one priority as companies return to work. Without real, human-to-human interaction, we lose our sense of belonging, leading to a sense of disorientation and unhappiness. As humans, we thrive on social contact and the energy, buzz and spontaneity of being with people. With colleagues around us, there is always someone there to bounce ideas off, to inspire thoughts, actions and ideas. Human interaction sparks innovation and meaningful communication. For reintegration to be successful, it is going to need this human touch. Face-to-face wins hands down.
A sense of community
Another important lesson has been how much we have pulled together within our communities. Friendliness, kindness, compassion, and philanthropy have been the order of the day. All of these are expressed through human contact, even if it is through a window or 2 metres apart. As we return to work, businesses need to be mindful, and incorporate this feeling of community. The public’s change in mindset means that values have shifted. Our workplaces also need to reflect these changes.
Moving forward – offline
We have all proved that we can function remotely and online, and this may still have its place as we transition into a post-COVID world. However, just because we can does not mean that we should. Just as there is a big difference between existing and living, there is a world of difference between functioning as an employee and being happy, engaged and motivated. Our enforced isolation has shown that we are adaptable, that change is achievable. But what it has highlighted most is the real, unquestionable value of human-to-human communication.
Here at The Big Picture People our visual communication solutions facilitate effective communication in the workplace. Our bespoke products support your internal communication strategy and other internal communication and learning applications. You can find out more about the popular solutions our products are created for here