Overcommunicating and COVID-19

remote communications_workplace culture_internal communications

Emily, our Manager of Research and Digital, spent the last 10 months before the pandemic working remotely full-time, the first of our employees to do so. Here’s what we’ve learned as an organization both from her experience and from working during the quarantine.

Small Agencies Need Internal Communications, Too

“Internal communications” can conjure the notion of a huge company’s pursuit of employee engagement through newsletters, intranet portals and MS Teams chats. But any sized organization benefits from an intentional employee-focused comms strategy and rhythm. Studies show that strong internal communications programs are highly correlated with employee engagement, job satisfaction and retention as well as new talent recruitment.

This holds true for our agency as well. While we couldn’t have anticipated the incipient need to manage workplace culture remotely, we still increased our use of video calls and group instant messaging. Working from Denver, Emily adjusted her work hours to 7 am to 3 pm Mountain Time to better meet the needs of the rest of the team on the East coast.

Balancing Overcommunication

Even in a small office, there’s occasionally the temptation to send an email or a chat message rather than having a face-to-face interaction. Working remotely, that often feels like the only option. We’re all rethinking how we approach different communication mediums to keep in touch more effectively. Video calls are essential to replicating the nonverbal cues from in-person interactions. We’re also quicker to ask clarifying discovery questions before creating a 20-message-long email trail to set basic expectations of a project.

Team meetings are important but there’s also the challenge of overwhelming “coronavirus fatigue.” We’re all acutely aware of the current health crisis, that many of our clients are struggling in a quarantined economy and that the best thing we can do is to keep following social distancing measures. We’ve instituted team meetings that are purely social, from happy hour hangouts to group games. This keeps us connected to each other as individual humans, not just a coworker on the other side of the Zoom line. We’re seriously committed to having fun.

Keeping Faith

Our company motto is, “This is why we’re a team.” We trust that each of our team members is still working to the best of their ability. Empathy and patience are critical while we figure out a new daily routine and communication cadence. Our internal teams are also empowered to get things done without having to vet every decision with the entire agency.

The “new normal,” whether just for one of our employees or the global workforce is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to closely examine why we work in the ways that we do and how we expect to move into the future. We can take this opportunity to transform our professional environments for the better.