21 May Mental Health Awareness Week: Managing through a global pandemic
Thanks to Georgina Bennett-Warner of BCLP for the third installment in this week’s #KeepTalking blogs. Here’s her view from inside a law firm about managing a comms team and how to communicate in the midst of a global pandemic.
It is day 59 of our official confinement and I don’t think anything has ever posed a bigger challenge to me both personally and professionally. We live in a time of so much change that it can be hard to keep up and even harder to want to. And whilst we battle with the mental health challenges associated with spending upwards of 20 hours a day in our homes, there is still a job to do.
In my case, a communications role. A pandemic wasn’t in the handbook for any of us and so days are now filled with a re-writing strategy and approach to fit “a new normal”. Acting swiftly and effectively has been key from day one. Those who took too long to make a decision about how they were going to react looked, at the very worst, callous, and at the best, disorganised.
Keeping in touch has also been seen as a major priority and I think that this has ensured that people have felt seen and heard at a time where everyone feels more than a little bit lost.
One of the priorities for my team has been to continue to have an open door. No question is too trivial, random or broad. Grappling with sometimes confusing advice from the Government hasn’t always made that easy but it has surprising how often a “quick question” has been a reason to strike up a conversation about other things related to how people are coping.
People living alone, those living in shared accommodation with space challenges, those struggling in a relationship put under pressure or those juggling childcare with a demanding job- everyone needs to be taken into account and to feel like their workplace is thinking of them. Splitting up communication onto a firm and department-wide level is effective. The soothing voice from senior leaders as well as the practical advice from those a little closer to you ensures that none of these questions get lost along the way either.
This is far from over. Now that we see a slight easing in social distancing a whole new set of questions have to be addressed. What happens now? How and when do we go back to the office? Will it be safe?
The same observation applies as above. Keep talking, keep engaging, don’t shy away from tricky questions and situations and aim to send out a formal update from senior leaders at every few weeks. Many will continue to worry about where priorities lie, is it the bottom line or the health of employees that comes first? It is our job to accurately convey that it is the latter and those who do this well will meet happier and more co-operative staff.