by TIM MIDDLETON | Published on April 28, 2020

A few weeks ago, in an article from The Atlantic Our Pandemic Summer, the author mentioned a friend who described how society is currently living due to the virus as the ‘now normal.’ In the context of our day-to-days and especially in the context of our work, this idea really strikes a chord.

As April and I were planning this webinar we decided it needed to be clear that working – whether that’s virtually or on the front lines – in this moment and time is anything but normal. For those of us working remote, we’re not actually remote working. We are pandemic working.

And there are a ton of us now working away from the office. According to MIT research, 34.1% of Americans who were commuting are now working remote. There are also massive numbers of workers who have been laid off or furloughed too. In only a short few months, the working landscape has changed an improbable amount.

This change means employers now have to reconsider who the audiences they are communicating with. There’s the veteran remote workforce whose routines are suddenly changed, but who may have answers to unforeseen challenges. The new remote workforce who are managing a new working environment with little preparation and all sorts of other important life things happening. Your furloughed workforce who are in a state of limbo and worried. Who lost their work community and need to still feel connected. And, last but not least, your pipeline who will matter again very soon and will be watching everything you do very closely.

All of those groups matter. What also matters is taking their very different realities in this ‘now normal’ into mind as you develop and communicate programs to keep your people engaged.

The Meaningful Brands report we run annually at Havas recently found that consumers look for an experience that is seamless, memorable, and personalized. It also found that anything less than this was considered an irritant.

It’s no different for your employees in this situation. In fact, understanding the difference in personal situations is probably even more key now. Some employers are doing truly brilliant things right now to keep people engaged and connected – eLearning, virtual workouts, virtual happy hours, virtual coffee breaks. A lot of activities that mimic the workplace. This is crucial to helping people navigate pandemic working. But, it’s key to remember that not all employees will be able to join or take advantage of those opportunities. That can be even more isolating.

One size will not fit all, so it’s key to listen to your people in order to build the most inclusive possible “now normal.” As you review and optimize your current employee engagement and outreach efforts, here are some of “the now rules” to consider:

Whether you are the CEO, chairing a call, or just writing a message to a colleague – make your optimism contagious. As Talent Leaders, continuously monitor engagement and stress levels to proactively respond.

Now is the time to overcommunicate. Update your employees even when there are no updates. Stay in regular, but brief touch across all departments, working groups, projects etc.

Reset your expectations. Support continued learning but be flexible. Use ambassadors, mentors and buddies to add more moral and structural support.

When in doubt, remember it’s your values that guide your culture and set behaviors. You’ll need to reset expectations, but your purpose still matters.

I’ll end this by saying, times may be uncertain and we may only have guesses as to what the future will bring, but what I can tell you for 100% certain – your people will remember the way you treat them now for a very, very long time.

Want to learn more? View our webinar here: