I was reminded about the power of communication this week, whilst standing in my daughter’s school playground. This is the kind of trendy, inner-city school that plays music to signal the start of the school day. So, when Elton John’s ‘Circle of Life’ blasted out of the speakers, a small voice at the back of my head wondered how appropriate this song was in a pandemic. Naturally, I was secretly disappointed they didn’t go for Queen’s “Another one bites the dust”…
In all seriousness, it piqued my curiosity, what message was the school – knowingly or not – sending out to the wider community?
How we communicate now, as the lockdowns loosen and preparations to return to the office are planned (if perhaps, dreaded by some) matters. What is your objective? A hopeful and happy return to “normal office life” is everyone’s goal of course, but for that to happen; clear and smart communication will be essential. Here are some of the things we’ve learned about communication recently.
Clarity and consistency matters. During the pandemic, we saw lots of puzzling communications failures from leaders – here and overseas. Boris Johnston confused a nation with his ‘Five Alert Levels’, a ‘three-step strategy’ and the wonderfully vague ‘Stay Alert!’ slogan…
which of course the British public has been taking the p*ss out of ever since…
And of course, it’s difficult to ignore the many intrepid examples set by President Trump, whose own medical experts’ despair as he ‘goes off message” (oh, every 30 seconds or so) as he drives up the sales of toilet bleach…
Whatever your brand of politics, the point is this: These leaders are both are known for their highly distinctive, personal, entertaining and – usually – effective communications styles. Yet, both have been ridiculed because the message they were trying to communicate were both too confusing and yet too simple!!
Ok, so you don’t want to be a Boris or a Don! So, how should you and your business be communicating with your employees, contractors and colleagues about returning to the office? What rules do people need to follow? And what story about you, as employers, do you want them to understand first and foremost?
Here are a few steps you can use with the acronym CALMER:
Check in with individual/Team
“How are you feeling about returning to the office?”
Safe Work Australia says: Consult with workers about all the things you are doing to identify and manage the risks to keep workers safe during the pandemic. Workers are most likely to know about the risks of their work, including new risks introduced as a result of COVID-19 control measures. Involving them will help build commitment to this process. Consultation does not require consensus or agreement, but you must allow your workers to be part of the decision-making process. You must genuinely take their views into account.
Ask about concerns or hopes about returning to working in the office
“How has COVD19 affected you or your family?”
Safe Work Australia says: Some people are at greater risk of more serious illness with COVID-19:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
- People 65 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
- People 70 years and older, and
- People with compromised immune systems
For more advise on returning vulnerable workers to the office, Chick here https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/covid-19-information-workplaces/industry-information/general-industry-information/vulnerable?tab=tab-toc-employer
Lay out some procedural ideas or plans for returning to the office
“I want us to be prepared”.
Safe Work Australia says: You must provide workers with clear direction and guidance about what is expected including:
- When to stay away from the workplace
- What action to take if they become unwell
- What symptoms to be concerned about,
- That workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of others.
For more advise on this, go to https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/covid-19-information-workplaces/industry-information/general-industry-information/consultation?tab=tab-toc-employer#heading–4–tab-toc-what_do_my_workers_need_to_know?
Motivate employees, colleagues or contractors to talk freely and to give solutions
“How else could we ensure a healthy workplace?”
For example, just getting to the office will be stressful and confusing for a lot of people now. As most employee’s commute, you will need to discuss things like staggered start/ending times, use of parking spaces, using the lift or the stairs or continuing working from home etc…For more advise go to https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/travel-information-covid-19
Expect emotion – we all cope with change differently
“It’s ok to have concerns”
Safe Work Australia says: You should manage psychosocial risks in the same way as physical risks.
Tips for managing stress from COVID-19:
- Provide workers with a point of contact to discuss their concerns and make workplace information available in a central place
- Inform workers about their entitlements if they become unfit for work or have caring responsibilities
- Inform workers about their rights under WHS laws, including the right to stop work in certain circumstances and the right not to be discriminated against or disadvantaged for raising work health and safety concerns in the workplace
- Refer workers to appropriate work related mental health and wellbeing support services, such as employee assistance programs or the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service.
- For more information on this go to https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/covid-19-information-workplaces/industry-information/office/mental-health
Record the discussion
Any documentation – even brief.
Finally, there’s no point saying ‘we’re all in this together’, if you don’t ‘walk the talk’. So, lead by example, keep communication open (and clear) and most of all listen to your work family…because that’s what they are. For more advise on Balance Recruitment contractors please contact us.