How are you doing?
How are you really doing?
Does it feel like you’re on a carousel that keeps on spinning and you’re not sure if the music will stop?
And if it does stop, will we go backwards for a bit, then forward again?
I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling like this. All the plans we’ve been creating here in England to get our employees back into our places of work (e.g. offices) have now stopped.
It feels like the hokey cokey gone wrong.
In, out, in, out. Can anyone keep up?!
The continuation of chaos or time for a fresh start?
I get it. I understand we need to act in the public’s interest and to safeguard the wellbeing and health of our employees. That’s paramount and has to come first. I welcome that and agree with it.
As a mum of three young children and in a household of vulnerable people health-wise, this year’s decisions, anxiety and choices have left their mark.
I understand the need for them to resume their education, particularly my five-year-old twin sons, who missed half of their foundational learning in their Reception year.
But it doesn’t stop that churning feeling every morning when we say goodbye and I wonder whether they’ll do a full day, or if something will happen that means this new version of reality will stop again.
Yesterday afternoon I had one of my regular Consultation calls with a Comms team who were telling me how they’d sent messages out last week to prepare some of their employees to return to their head office next week.
Following the Government’s announcement a couple of days ago, they’re now unpicking that, revising it and communicating a whole new set of messages.
As professional communicators, we’re used to being proactive and reactive. We’re well-versed in crisis comms and the need to react and respond accordingly.
Six months on
But people are starting to hit a wall. As we head into the sixth month of this global pandemic, there has been the biggest adrenaline crash.
Yesterday morning I was the keynote speaker for Vodafone Ireland’s event they held for professional communicators. During my talk, which focused on the need to create connection through communication in a hybrid world, I shared this image.
Whenever you start out in crisis mode, the adrenaline and momentum kick in. We act fast, we respond with urgency and the surge carries us through.
But what happens when the crash comes?
I wonder if you feel like this?
This six-month period of time is well-documented in trauma or crisis zones.
I spotted this article on Forbes, which highlighted the work of Professor Aisha Ahmad of the University of Toronto.
It quoted her as saying:
“The six-month mark in any sustained crisis is always difficult. We have all adjusted to this “new normal,” but might now feel like we’re running out of steam. Yet, at best, we are only one third of the way through this marathon. How can we keep going? First, in my experience, this is a very normal time to struggle or slump. I *always* hit a wall six months into a tough assignment in a disaster zone. The desire to “get away” or “make it stop” is intense. I’ve done this many times, and at 6 months, it’s like clockwork”.
Does that resonate with you? It does with me.
If you want to know more about this topic, I encourage you to read this article on surge capacity.
Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters.
What has happened over the past six months?
At the start of the pandemic, which here in the UK really kicked in when lockdown occurred in March, I observed the cadence (rhythm) of internal communication increasing.
We’d already been working on COVID Comms for a few months, particularly in global organisations. But March marked the true start for many organisations.
The deadline for everything? Yesterday.
When does this need to be signed off and sent out to all employees? ASAP.
We did that. For months. We ramped up our channels to increase the frequency. Daily updates from leaders. Twice daily updates on the intranet. Weekly messages and Q&A from the frontline and back.
New channels were created in record time. The indecisions about collaborative software were brought into sharp focus and we rolled them out quickly.
You know the drill. You’ll have your own examples.
And the language. The unprecedented times, furlough… the list is endless. We learnt them, we used them, we tried to find other ways to say the same thing. Over and over. For weeks and months.
And now, in September 2020?
We’d just started to really relax the rhythm.
It signified some kind of return. I’m not going to write “to normal” or “new normal” because it jars with me. As I know it does for many people. This is anything but normal. But it’s our new reality.
I’ve lost count of the number of channels matrices I’ve plotted, planned, revised and rewritten with clients.
And now we’re back. We’re back here again.
I’m writing this blog post to say if you feel like this, I hear you. If you’re exhausted and burnt out, I hear you.
If you’re looking for a new role and are tired of refreshing jobs boards, applying for jobs and sending messages out on LinkedIn, I hear you.
One day maybe I’ll share the reality of running a business in 2020 and what this year has been like for All Things IC. But today I want to focus on you.
Creating certainty amongst the chaos
I’ve had a lot of conversations with clients and Comms friends this week as we’re trying to create some certainty amongst the chaos.
But here’s the truth. That’s incredibly hard to do.
Regular readers will know whenever I’m planning any internal comms, I like to be organised by setting my intentions.
I like to know what I want employees to do, say, think or feel (differently) as a result of internal communication. Plus how I want or need them to behave.
I call it my secret sauce or magic formula. But in reality, it’s how I keep focused, particularly on measurement. If I can’t answer those questions, I have no hope of measuring as I don’t know what the intention was.
Here it is again…
We can do this.
We know what we’re doing.
How do you want employees to be feeling right now?
If you had to list it out, I imagine you’d write: informed, connected, listened to, reassured, settled, like we have a plan, comforted…
Reviewing and planning
Hundreds of Comms professionals around the globe are working their way through my How to review 2020 and plan 2021 Internal Comms Online Masterclass at the moment.
Many of you have completed it. Congratulations if you have. I’ve been staggered by the take up and proud to see you investing time in your professional development.
I made this course available for free as my gift to the global Comms community to help you have a structured way to pause, reflect and analyse the work you’ve done this year.
Comms friends, I’m here to tell you we need to dig a bit deeper.
I know it feels like the reserves are gone. But this is the time for us to look out for and after each other. A great start is to focus on your mental health and wellbeing.
Check in with each other. Ask twice to see how your colleagues and Comms friends are really doing.
Take time to focus on your own coping strategies. What do you need to do?
Whether it’s going for a walk, getting a fresh notepad out to empty your mind of thoughts into, speaking with a good friend, being mindful of what you’re consuming, do it.
Mine is LEGO. When I’m stressed, I build. When I need time to think, I build. When I want to feel like I’ve created some time for myself, I build. I’m currently creating the new Grand Piano 21323 and it’s a thing of beauty.
Time for a fresh start?
I want to encourage you to draw a line.
Draw a line under the past six months. Be proud of the work you’ve done. Be proud for navigating your way through the firestorm that has been 2020.
Don’t discount the work you’ve done. Draw on those strengths, take the lessons you’ve learnt and apply them again. There’s now a familiarity coming through.
We don’t know how long the pandemic will last for, but we know our people, we know how to communicate with them (not to them – with them – super important difference), we know how our leaders respond and communicate and we know the resources we have.
It feels like the carousel is whirling around again and taking us on another rotation.
But this time we know the music. We know the rhythm and it’s familiar.
We’ve been here before, and however long this journey is, we can do it.
The carousel photographs in this post were taken by me, it’s near my mother-in-law’s house in France. I usually go there with my children annually and watch them ride it in joyful abandon. They shriek and smile and it always makes me happy to watch them. I have faith we will return there when it’s safe to do so.
I’m so proud of you for all the work you’ve done. I’ve never been prouder to be part of this profession.
You know where I am if I can help.
We’ve got this.
Thank you for stopping by,
- Psychological safety: creating safe spaces for employees to thrive – by Alive With Ideas.
- That overwhelming feeling – by Dan Holden
- The new waves of COVID-10: the rules change again for internal communication – by Mike Klein
- Unlocking us: RGB, surge capacity and play as an energy source – by Brené Brown.
Post author: Rachel Miller.