Plan employee engagement with Coronavirus exit strategy

In the first instalment of our internal communications advice blog, we focused on what companies can be doing now to maintain an engaged workforce. Conversations on a Coronavirus exit strategy are starting to increase as the country longs to return to ‘normal’. Here, we look at longer-term considerations for employee engagement:

Be responsive to ongoing change

The lockdown has distorted the benefits of flexible working. Many employees have been flung into an unusual scenario of inflexible flexibility, working at home alongside children, partners, other family members and housemates, as well as those who live alone and are in complete isolation. We’re working and living within the same four walls most of the time. There’s clear recognition of the mental health challenges of the current working from home scenario. People are experiencing mixed emotions, and levels of motivation and engagement are probably fluctuating.

“These are unprecedented times” must be one of the most over-used statements of the moment, but it doesn’t diminish its accuracy. Businesses that are responsive to the changing needs and circumstances of employees will undoubtedly maintain a more motivated workforce. There is a need for frequent reviews of employee engagement activity. Employers have a responsibility to keep on top of employee well-being and to consider ways of maintaining resilience and positivity through new ideas to keep things fresh.

Start planning for the future now

Things feel a bit grim, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel and lockdown arrangements will be lifted eventually. Now is the time to think about lockdown exit strategies, including how your internal communications approach needs to shift again. It’s likely the mass exodus to working from home will have a long-lasting impact on our future working patterns across many industries. Will we — should we — return to the office, Monday to Friday, 9–5? Or, will the shape of our workforce change forever? Either way, there will be consequences for internal communicators to support organisations as the country returns to ‘normal’.

Remain committed to best practice

It remains to be seen how the Coronavirus pandemic will evolve and when we’ll see some semblance of normality in our working lives. Companies that have increased their communications with employees over the past weeks cannot switch that off when ‘normal’ emerges. The companies who engage well with employees before, during and after a period of change emerge stronger. The caring company is here to stay.