W7Worldwide poll sheds light on role of internal communications in sustaining businesses through COVID-19

Employee engagement is crucial for any organization’s success, and during a crisis situation like the current pandemic, it becomes all the more important in order to support the workforce through this difficult time.
At a time when work from home has become the “new normal,” it is necessary that companies adapt their internal communication policies to suit the changing dynamics of the workplace.

The coronavirus outbreak is impacting not just the health of individuals but is also having a devastating effect on the economies of most countries. Due to the decline in economic activities, a number of companies are trying to survive and many are on the verge of shutting shop, thus calling for new measures to revive the sector. With layoffs and salary cuts becoming the order of the day, employees across all sectors are feeling uncertain about their future, making it more difficult for them to contribute to achieving the company goals, thus, underlining the need for an effective internal communications strategy that can boost the morale of the staff and keep them informed.

Staying virtually connected with remote employees goes a long way in protecting their mental health and keeping them motivated, ultimately driving productivity at work.
Our recent Twitter poll asked PR experts in the Kingdom what internal communications plan they have in place to sustain businesses during the coronavirus crisis.

The poll, conducted both in Arabic and English, had participants choose one of the four given options: Effective CEO leadership, optimistic communications, clarify company policies and all of the above.
Of the total 4,047 participants, an overwhelming majority of 56.7 percent voters in Arabic and 31.9 percent in English said they are doing “all of the above.” Meanwhile, 22.2 percent of voters in English and 10 percent of voters in Arabic stressed “effective CEO leadership,” and 22.8 percent of English voters and 17.8 percent Arabic voters chose “optimistic communications.” Moreover, 23.2 percent of the participants in the English poll and 15.6 percent of the participants in the Arabic poll said they would “clarify company policies.”

The poll results highlight the overall preparedness of most companies in engaging their employees and reaffirm the seven-step plan suggested by W7Worldwide in its Crisis Communications Guide, which mentions the creation of an internal communications plan as one of the most important steps in handling the COVID-19 crisis communications.

“Pre-empt and provide answers to questions your employees will have. These will relate to changes in working conditions, travel restrictions, job security, health, safety, welfare and business continuity. Define a two-way process for reaching employees through emails, intranet, company meetings, FAQs or a website situation room,” the report said.

Moreover, the W7Worldwide poll results indicate that many have identified the role of effective leadership in the face of the current crisis as a key factor. A CEO, manager or any other team leader should motivate and give hope to the employees that the company will be able to weather the storm, providing assurances on job security and guiding them in the right direction as regards to serving existing customers and making new ones. Such a leadership inspires positivity at a time when most employees are feeling despair and help in clarifying any doubts or confusion that they may have.

Indeed, there can be nothing like over-communication in times of a crisis. Whether it be sharing updates regarding office closures or new timings, health information, video meetings related to work, or daily engagement activities outside work, such as coffee chats, bake-off challenges, book clubs, and so on, there is plenty to connect over and feel like a team even when employees are working remotely.

While a lot of emphases is laid on the importance of communication in the workplace, enough attention is not paid to how much of that communication is helping staff to really connect with each other. Leaders, as well as employees, should make an effort despite their busy schedules to interact with one another through one-to-one video meetings, phone calls, emails, chats, and other means. A number of studies have shown that a lack of frequent and effective communication results in team members that do not talk to each other, and consequently, an under-performing organization with toxic work culture.