How to keep employee morale up when facing what will likely be the worst crisis in recent history? Remote work can wear down even the most experienced workers. It requires a different mindset than working in an office where employees interact with each other daily in person. Engaging remote employees is notoriously difficult. At the best of times, 20% of remote employees say they lose a sense of belonging and sometimes feel disconnected and lonely when they’re working from home. This number will most likely increase when more people join the ranks of remote employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the pandemic grows, so does the pressure on internal communications.

Your employees naturally have questions that need answering. They want to know how the coronavirus will affect their work and what’s the company’s plan for mitigating the risks brought by the pandemic. Finally, they want to know if they will get to keep their jobs.

You inform your employees and answer their questions right away. You can’t leave their questions unanswered. And, although unintentional, this can mean your internal communications ends up sounding quite serious at times. How do you avoid eroding your people’s morale and productivity in this difficult time?

Since coffee with a co-worker and water-cooler talks are off the table, internal communications should evolve too and include some casual fun posts to keep both engagement and spirits up.

Make Internal Communications More Human

Here are some ideas for less-formal internal communications to help your people feel connected and supported:

Share Breakthroughs and Uplifting News about the Virus

Sharing positive news about what’s happening in the world and your community can help loosen up deep-seated fears. For example, our own CEO shared his story of getting tested (he tested negative, in case you were wondering). It humanized the experience, gave hope, and created an opportunity for those who might go through the same thing to reach out and connect with him.

Shine the Spotlight on Your (Remote) Employees

This classic ‘get to you know you’ post, highlights something unique and unknown about an employee. Have an employee share a little-known fact about themselves; their identity is only revealed at the end of the post. This exercise proved to be a lot of fun on my team. I didn’t know that we had a former championship bowler and a former police officer. If your internal communications tool lets you include photo and video, you can leverage that to make the post even more fun.

Good News from Within

Share a ‘good deed’ story that the organization or someone within the organization has done to help the community. Every company has inspiring stories that are waiting to be told perhaps someone volunteers their time to an important cause or the company raised money to support a charity. Including motivational or inspiring stories feeds the sense of being part of something good.

Give a Shout Out

Recognize those who go the extra mile. This ask your co-workers: “who’s been awesome this week?”. Employees can submit their responses via the comments section including the colleague’s name and a story about something that happened to them. It’s a form of kudos that’s less formal and more conversational.

Having Some Fun: The Imaginary Commute

Share a fun post about a disrupted daily routine. Here’s one I shared with my team the other day about my encounter with fiery dragons and puppy dog stares.

Break Things up with a Story

This is a form of the kids’ game, Pass the Story. Post a short prompt and ask people to comment with the next piece in the tale. Who knows, your team could be writing the next NYT’s bestseller. You can think of other creative ways to engage your teams by helping them create fun content to share and interact with.

Share Tips for Coping with the Crisis

The pandemic is affecting your employees differently. Those who are parents may be overwhelmed with keeping their kids engaged while schools are closed. Others, might be struggling with planning their life around remote work.

Take this opportunity to highlight a resource or have someone share their schedule for one day so everyone can benefit from other’s creativity. You can embed video links to recommended content for kids, or help co-workers organize dinner plans by sharing recipes. At the bottom of the post, ask people to suggest the next day’s feature idea, while in the comments, they can discuss what’s been proposed.

Set a Tempo

Having a variety of posts is great, but you will also need to maintain a schedule of publishing. When people see there’s a pulse of different types of content provided, without it being a merciless barrage of notifications, it builds a sense of pattern and structure. This helps underpin their day and week.

Gather Instant Feedback

Poll employees to get quick feedback. For example, you could ask them if they have all the resources they need to work from home.

In Sparrow, you can use the compliance post feature to do just that. Compliance posts allow employees to check a box to reply to the post. Normally, this feature is for policy updates or to confirm understanding. But you can also use them to quickly find out who needs extra help. Here is an example:

You’ll get an automatic report with names of people who check the box making it easy to plan further follow-ups. The post can be set to expire after a day or two so that it’s not open-ended.

Poll employees to increase engagement among remote employees

Surveys or polls, are another way to engage people. They can be used to measure the pulse of the organization and see how connected your employees are. They can also be used to understand how employees are doing. Here are some questions you could ask your staff:

How many departments have you connected with this week?
How many people have you video called this week?
What’s the best way to break up your day? A. Walk, B. Workout C. Coffee/tea break D. Howling at the moon (always provide one silly option).
Lower the formality ans increase the humanity

Because much of our social interactions happen at the office, remote work comes with a higher risk of social isolation. Adding uplifting information and a touch of humor to your internal communications keeps your tribe engaged and connected through the crisis.