By Pete Rawlinson.

There’s never been a more important time for employees to be kept informed of what is happening and to stay connected with each other. The coronavirus crisis has had a huge impact on all our lives and changed the way we work. Many of us are now working remotely at home, sometimes for the first time. Frontline staff are facing extreme operational challenges due to staff shortages caused by colleagues having to self-isolate, or because roles have been furloughed. It’s an anxious time for us all and is very challenging.

Technology has proved to be critical in allowing work to continue. Here at Workvivo we’ve been supporting some of our customers in accelerating their use of our employee communication app so that the entire workforce can stay connected and informed. Other technology providers are doing the same. 

Using an app that is accessible from a mobile device has proved particularly important where there is a significant proportion of staff who are deskless or disconnected, and don’t necessarily have work email addresses. All employees need an essential, trusted channel for workforce communications.

Let’s explore the different ways that employee communication apps are helping organisations and their employees navigate the challenges caused by coronavirus.

1. Keeping employees up to date in real time

The coronavirus crisis has proved to be a rapidly evolving situation; organisations have had to be highly adaptable to new circumstances very quickly. It’s absolutely critical that employees are able to be kept up to date in real time with access to updates from a trusted, authoritative source. Being able to receive news and access reliable information through a communication app means there is one source of truth; this helps to eliminate confusion, reduces stress and drives confidence. It can also stop the spread of misinformation and rumours that can happen when there is a vacuum with no “official” communication channel.  

As well as providing news and resources, some of our customers have also been using Q&A functionality to allow employees to ask questions and get authoritative answers on topics relating to HR, protective equipment, IT support and more.

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2. Providing leadership

In a crisis it’s an important time to show leadership. An employee communication app provides a very direct way for a CEO and the senior leadership team to communicate with all employees; it means leaders can actually lead. 

More often than not, particularly with frontline staff who are “disconnected”, there is distance caused by layers of hierarchy and a lack of proximity.  When senior leaders use digital communication channels that can be accessed from an employee’s mobile device, they can post authentic and personal messages and videos that can appeal very directly to staff, providing support and encouragement. We find these personal messages resonate more deeply than traditional corporate communications.

3. Keeping operations moving

One of the most challenging aspects of the crisis is how to keep normal operations moving in difficult circumstances. This is especially challenging for teams who are mainly used to working side by side in a physical space but can now only interact remotely.

In the new reality of distributed working, teams need to be able to communicate efficiently in order to co-ordinate activities. On Workvivo, teams can work closely together in public or private spaces for communication and collaboration. We know some of our clients have teams that are finding this feature invaluable in making work happen and driving day to day operations. 

4. Providing connection and community

Working remotely in a lockdown situation can be lonely and stressful. An employee communication app provides some degree of human connection during the working day and helps to drive a sense of community. 

A common observation is that the crisis is meaning actually people are getting to know each other better. Having channels where people can post about non-working topics, support each other with tips and tricks and perhaps provide a little humour are great ideas. In a recent post we suggest that it’s important to create spaces that allow employees to socialise; you could, for example, even form a group dedicated to “Pet interruption of the month” on a video call!

5. Keeping morale up

Employee communication apps with social features really come into their own when helping to keep morale up. It’s a perfect place for everybody to share positive updates, inspiring stories and lighter moments that can help everybody get through the day. On an app like Workvivo there are different ways to do this; employees can post a simple update that everybody can see via the activity feed or send a specific shout-out that celebrates the actions of individuals or a team. 

For example, an employee at Workvivo client Kentech was able to post a positive update about being able to source a shipment of surgical masks. These little stories and updates can play a big role in showing that the heart of an organization is still beating, and that life goes on.

6. Providing an employee pulse check

One of the best things that leaders can do right now is to listen to their workforce. What are the challenges they are facing in the new situation? How are they feeling? What can organisations do to support employees? Listening and dialogue helps guide actions and gives employees confidence in their leaders. 

An employee communication app like Workvivo has a number of options to collect employee feedback. Polls can give a rapid snapshot of opinion and mood while a direct request for comments through a leadership blog or post can illicit more detailed ideas and feedback. Employees can even upload videos with their thoughts. Analytics can also show the kind of topics that are trending across conversations in your social network, an indicator of the issues that employees are facing.

7. Rebuilding for the future

This crisis will end, but at the moment it seems unlikely that things will suddenly return to normal with a highly fragile global economy and even the threat of future lockdowns. Having a digital communications platform or app is an important tool to allow organisations and employees to rebuild and readjust; effective communication and collaboration allows us all to work together and stay on the same page, rebuilding for a better future. 

Working together to get through the crisis

Beating this crisis means everyone working together. Having clear information and an easy way to communicate helps enormously. If you think an employee communication app like Workvivo might help your organisation and you would like more information then get in touch.

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