Manager Communications in This Moment

COVID-19 Communications Insight: Go Back to Basics

By Oonagh Power
Head of Editorial Services & Senior Communication Consultant

Learning how to communicate with a remote team on the fly? You’re not alone. For many managers, leading a work-from-home team was an unexpected and sudden change.

But there’s good news: While much about the ways we’re all working seems to have changed overnight, communication basics remain the same. Sticking to these tried-and-true principles can help you and your team adjust.

Be consistent.
Creating moments of certainty in this extraordinarily uncertain time will set you up for success. If you have not established regular touchpoints with the team, plan them now. Choose the channels that work best for your team right now: conference or video calls, email blasts, Yammer discussions, 1:1 check-ins. (Even better, use a mix-and-match approach.) Then establish a cadence, so the team knows when and how they will hear from you next.

Remember that communication is always more effective when it’s two-way, so if your team is not meeting on a regular basis, establish an easy way for employees to give feedback or make suggestions. What’s the best way to keep those lines of communication open? Ask your team for feedback.

Be clear.
Many company priorities and processes have dramatically shifted over the past few weeks. What does that mean for your team’s goals and objectives? Clarify roles and responsibilities, and create a forum for the team to raise concerns. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t have an answer, but be sure to both acknowledge their concerns and commit to a timeline to follow up.

Be clear and brief in emails and meeting invites. Use the subject line to help your team manage their overflowing inboxes, categorizing each message with an all caps label (eg, FYI, ACTION REQUIRED, FOR FUN). Encourage the team to use the same set of labels so everyone knows at a glance which emails should take priority.

Be considerate.
You and your team are dealing with added pressures, which might include family or financial concerns, loneliness, depression, or anxiety. How can you adjust your communication to make life a bit easier? Small changes can make a big difference.

•  Schedule meetings for more convenient times. We recommend avoiding Monday mornings and Friday afternoons. Ask your team for what works for them, and try varying the times to accommodate a variety of schedules.

•  Keep meetings as short as possible – eg, 30 – 45 minutes instead of an hour. Then start and end on time. An agenda helps keep everyone on track.

•  Understand and accept that folks might be unintentionally distracted during a meeting or even pulled away completely. Follow up with a quick list of key takeaways and action items.

•  Concentrate on communicating deliverables and owners, then leave it up to the team to get it done on their own schedule. Be open to rearranging responsibilities as needed.

Communication Insight

We’re all learning the do’s and don’ts of communicating during a pandemic. Returning to communication basics can help your team adjust to new ways of working. Need help crafting a strategy for communicating with your employees? Contact us.