With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading at a very fast pace, millions of employees around the world are working from home to protect themselves from the pandemic.
Working from home is not unusual anymore. It has even become the norm in most organizations as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread.
📚Download our eBook "10 Principles of Modern Employee Communications" and learn how to communicate with the modern employee in today's digital age.
While around 50% of the US population used to work remotely on a regular or occasional basis before the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of employees working from home has drastically increased right after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced last week, on Wednesday, March 11th that the coronavirus reached the "pandemic" status.
The Impacts of the Coronavirus Outbreak on Remote Work
While startups used to make up the majority of the companies offering remote work arrangements, agile enterprises with thousands of employees have started following the trend to protect their employees from the global coronavirus pandemic.
Some of the largest companies—including Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Hitachi, Apple, Amazon, Chevron, Ford, Salesforce and Spotify—have even rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies to lower the impact of the virus.
How the COVID-19 Outbreak Led to a Global Work-From-Home Experiment
As the public health crisis we're experiencing now is unfolding globally, companies have no choice but to adjust their work arrangements in no time since remote work is becoming the norm.
The thing is, while some companies are used to remote work, it may be a completely new way of working for others. And those companies that are not used to remote work may not be ready to successfully change their work arrangements right away.
That's the reason why business experts and analysts are paying great attention to the way companies—from startups to enterprises—are adjusting their internal processes and employee comms strategies.
Indeed, more and more experts see the pandemic as the world's largest work-from-home experiment.
The coronavirus pandemic is disrupting the global economy and it is an opportunity for companies to experiment, rethink and improve their remote work arrangements.
It's too early to say to what extend the coronavirus outbreak is going to change the internal communication landscape. But what's for sure is that companies are taking their internal comms strategies to a completely new level, especially because of the urgent need for remote work.
"The virus could act as a game-changer for remote work,” says Prithwiraj Choudhury, a professor at Harvard Business School.
"The coronavirus could be the catalyst that gets firms to adopt remote work policies in far greater numbers than we see now, even after the pandemic ends. This is an opportunity to essentially restructure organizations" adds Choudhury.
Your Internal Communication Is the Key to Keeping Your Teams Productive During the COVID-19 Crisis
Your internal communication is the glue that holds your business together and it plays an even more important role during the coronavirus outbreak.
The thing is, it's not only some of your employees but your entire workforce that is now working from home. That means that you need to implement a completely new way of communicating with your employees.
Remote work requires a completely different mindset than working in an office and some employees may struggle with this change. In fact, 20% of remote employees say that they lack a sense of belonging and sometimes feel lonely and disconnected when they're working from home under normal circumstances.
The thing is, while remote workers used to work from home one or two days a week on average, they are now expected to be working from home every day for weeks. That means that you have to completely rethink the way you're communicating and engaging with them.
That's where your internal communication comes to place.
Think about it: when your employees are in the office, they engage on a daily basis and feel truly connected. This could take the form of a water-cooler conversation, lunch with a coworker, or even visually observing meetings taking place.
Because remote work is becoming the norm during the COVID-19 outbreak, these types of conversations are not possible anymore and, as a result, remote workers can frequently feel disconnected. What's more, your employees may feel worried and a bit lost since they're drastically changing their ways of working.
How to Effectively Communicate with Your Employees During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Your Employees Need Your Help
Because of the coronavirus outbreak, your employees have naturally a lot of questions. “How are all the changes due to the coronavirus outbreak going to impact my work?”. "Where can I find the latest company news and updates related to the COVID-19 pandemic?". “If the company’s market value is dropping and we're temporarily closing our shops and some of our factories, does that mean I may lose my job?”
Your internal communication plays an essential role in this kind of situation.
You need to inform your employees and answer their questions right away. You can't afford to leave their questions unanswered. You need to share critical and timely information with them right away.
Best Practices for Keeping Your Teams Productive While Working From Home During the Coronavirus Crisis
We know that moving towards remote work is a big step, especially during the public health crisis we're facing right now.
The thing is, you don't have time to rethink your internal communication strategy and how you're going to support team collaboration in the upcoming weeks since the pandemic is spreading at a fast pace.
Some businesses have moved to 100% remote work in less than 48 hours. And communications teams are urged to find the right strategy to keep the business running smoothly despite the pandemic.
The thing is, we're not there yet. Indeed, only 47% of employers surveyed by Deloitte said that they have the capabilities or processes they would need to meet a crisis with the best possible outcome.
To help you cope with the global coronavirus pandemic, we've surveyed our clients and asked them how they're using Smarp to keep their remote teams productive.
Based on their answers, we've put together 10 remote work tips that we hope will help you support your employees during the COVID-19 crisis.
Let's go through these tips in more details:
1. Share company policies and procedures with your teams
Make sure you share the company policies and procedures related to the coronavirus outbreak with your entire workforce so everyone is able to keep up with the decisions made by top management.
Indeed, informing everyone about the decisions related to the coronavirus crisis you make is one of the best ways to keep your business running smoothly during the pandemic.
Make it easy for your employees to find all the guidelines, procedures and HR forms related to the coronavirus outbreak you have.
However, don't forget to share additional policies and guidelines with your employees that need them.
For example, your employees working in France need to be informed about the decisions you've made based on the French government's guidelines and instructions while this information may not be that relevant for your employees based in Singapore, San Francisco or Sydney.
2. Make your employees' health and safety your top priority
Your employees' health and safety is your top priority. Your employees are your greatest asset so even though they are working from home, make sure they are safe.
Let them know what symptoms to watch for and what they should do if they start having coronavirus symptoms or if they've been in contact with someone having those symptoms.
In addition to that, you can share informative and educational materials to help your employees protect themselves from the pandemic. You can, for example, use videos and images to share quick tips on topics such as sanitation best practices.
3. Keep your employees in the loop
Share with your employees content from sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and local authorities monitoring the progress of the virus.
Indeed, you need to inform your employees about the news related to the COVID-19 crisis in addition to the company updates you share with them.
It's all about informing your employees about the global crisis we're experiencing now so they can make the best decisions to ensure they stay safe.
4. Make sure you are able to inform your employees about urgent matters
For urgent messages that require immediate action, you need to notify all your employees in no time so they can act upon it.
Keep in mind that you need to reach your employees through their preferred channels so you can make sure they get your messages right away. One of the best ways to do so is to send automated emails and push notifications to mobile.
5. Know your employees and the content they are interested in
6. Make it easy for your teams to keep up with the news related to the COVID-19 pandemic
7. Make sure that your employees can easily find the information and materials they need
8. Measure your internal communication
9. Reach all your employees, no matter where they are
10. Take your internal and external communications to the next level
The Bottom Line
Because of the coronavirus outbreak, companies have no choice but to rethink their internal communications. IC teams are required to be more agile and proactive than before. They've clearly become the most important strategic business partners that can ensure that businesses are running smoothly despite the pandemic.
One of their top missions is to craft in no time a new internal communication strategy that supports employees' productivity, team collaboration, and the business's success during the coronavirus outbreak.
Redefining your internal communication in such a short period of time — remember, some businesses have moved to 100% remote work in less than 48 hours — doesn't come easy.
But keep in mind that to make remote working work for your employees, you need to make sure you can reach them in no time and share with them the information they need right away. They can't afford to spend 2.5 hours a day looking for the information they need, as they usually do under normal circumstances.
As mentioned earlier, it's too early to tell to what extend the coronavirus outbreak is going to change/affect the internal communication landscape so make sure you stay on top of your game.