It has become a little clichéd to write about work and the office in relation to Covid-19. We have become accustomed to a so-called new normal that has a continuous edge of the abnormal to it. Individuals and companies, even those that are working in environments or functions as close to normal pre-2020, are certainly feeling the pinch.
Whether this relates to the change in engagement with clients and team members (Zoom fatigue, anyone?) or non-stop sanitising, the concept of business as we know it has certainly changed for the foreseeable future.
Being part of a media monitoring and analysis company, I am fortunate to work with a variety of clients over various industries, from smaller public relations agencies to larger corporates and government departments. Through engagements with them on a practical level, and looking at their communication strategies and media presence, there are a few learnings that can be gleamed in this new world of work.
1. Never take for granted the disparities among offices, especially home offices
This is an obvious one and has been discussed many times over the last few months in media and thought leadership pieces. Many companies are back at the office with business as usual (whatever that means). However, for various reasons, many companies have decided to allow staff to continue operating from home. Even though there are certainly pros and cons to both, always be mindful that not everyone can work efficiently from home.
Whether this is related to having the kids around, poor (or no) reliable internet or electricity infrastructure, or just plain noisy neighbours. As a leader, never assume that working from home is a blessing for a team member (or a client when there is that engagement).
Also, remember the responsibilities a company has to the home-based employee. For example, don’t assume that because a staff member isn’t paying for transport that they’re saving more by being home. There are internet, electricity, and various home costs that increase. This is not to mention the emotional impact of living where you work and seldom disconnecting.
2. Meetings are too easy to have now
Back to the Zoom fatigue referenced earlier. Once upon a time, meetings were not easy things to organise – we had to account for travel time, traffic, and really tried to only hold meetings when it was necessary. Now, things are inherently different. We can have client (or staff) meetings in our PJs from home, or easily from our office desk. We don’t need to travel, and meetings are literally a push of a button away.
The positive side is, of course, that we are more engaged now than ever before, and there’s a general sense of better engagement. I see this, especially with clients. Agencies, companies, and individuals have more regular strategy meetings and debriefings, which immediately leads to stronger outputs and better relationships, albeit not face-to-face.
However, always be mindful to follow some traditional practices in this non-traditional environment. Never forget the following before asking for or agreeing to a meeting:
- Is there an agenda? What are the outcomes?
- Are only the relevant people involved? Just because you can invite everybody, doesn’t mean you should.
- Is this a Zoom call? I use Zoom as the overarching term to include Teams, Google Meet, Skype, etc.) Is this an email or is this just a phone call?
- Remember point one and the potential disparities among individual offices and circumstances. If it is a necessary call, remember there might be personal distractions and infrastructure issues such as data limitations. Therefore, be considerate and keep things short and to the point.
- If it is a home-based office situation, as many circumstances still call for, remember the privacy of your meeting is not guaranteed. When you’re on a call, even with cameras on, you still do not know who’s in the other room. This is just to remind you that, even though cyber security has been top of mind, remember real life security.
3. Stay informed
From personal and company engagements, it is critical that you’re aware of what is going on around you and how it may impact your business, you or your family. It sounds like another obvious statement, but in the media industry the focus on often on your own brand and industry.
Now is the time to learn from other brands and industries. How is everyone else dealing with the current situation? What are the truly relevant stories and narratives out there that impact you and your brand’s future? Where are the opportunities? What is the world and the environment going to look like in six months, 12 months or five years from now?
Decisions must be made now (unfortunately, in many cases, for pure survival) but remember we must also look at decisions that affect growth now and in the future.
Even though there are many more learnings and cases that can be highlighted, these are the three that are top of mind for me, and which impact on the most clients and engagements I have. We’re all in this together and must never be afraid to communicate honestly and transparently.
Whether we’re speaking to staff, colleagues, clients, vendors, suppliers, or potential new business, let’s be more empathetic and know that everyone is dealing with a lot. Things will never be the same again, so let’s work and learn together to pave the way for a fresh way of doing things.
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