We aren’t working at home, we are living at work. Virtual presenteeism amongst remote working employees is on the rise driven by a paranoia to be seen to be always ‘at work’ and fuelled by the rise of employee surveillance technology. It’s stressful, and internal communicators have responded with a barrage of mental health and wellbeing communication, but should we have been focusing on creating remote-first organisational cultures instead?
We stand on the threshold of Lockdown 2.0 in England. Ironically timed to begin on Guy Fawkes Day, it is a bonfire of the liberties as our lives become ever more restricted once again. In Lockdown 1.0, I learned a few coping strategies. Eternal optimists may wish to look away now.
The ever-present tyranny of the future has been intensified by the uncertainty created by the pandemic. Maybe the best thing any of us can do right now is to just take things one day at a time and to not try to think too far ahead.
In a week of significant coronavirus related UK government announcements, it feels like we are in this for the long haul now and there is a creeping permanence in our current remote working circumstances. Internal communicators should be heeding the ministerial mantra of ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ to move away from the crisis and change communications approach of recent months towards one of continuous improvement.
We are being bombarded with rhetoric telling homeworkers that it is now time to get back to the office and ‘get back to work’. As we move into the next phase of the pandemic the gaslighting continues and does nothing to help organisations prepare for the safe return of some employees to their pre-pandemic workplaces. How can internal communicators neutralise the tangled messaging of an insidious gaslighting campaign designed to confuse and disorientate us?
In the wake of the pandemic is your organisational culture an Eden destroyed or a Hell vanquished? For internal communicators tasked with helping organisations balance the needs of employees and the demands of leadership to establish a new workplace Eden, there may be some big challenges to come.
The explosion of philanthropy in knowledge sharing and support which many internal communicators experienced in the early days of the pandemic is over, and paid for online events are now making a comeback. Knowledge has a price tag, but it should be one that everyone working in internal communication is able to pay.
What will it take to reassure and persuade employees to confidently emerge from lockdown and return to their usual workplaces as these begin to reopen? This is not just about messaging and tactics. Internal communicators must also maintain ethical practice against the backdrop of an emerging ‘gaslighting’ campaign which seeks to change our perceptions of the pandemic and its consequences.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest disrupter our society has experienced for over a century, and it will change the world of work forever. My vision of a dystopian future of work may be an Orwellian fantasy, but it includes the issues which internal communicators will be grappling with for years to come.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic internal communicators have been adding our experiences of what it is like to practice during a significant historical event to the vast digital record of our times on social media and the internet. What will this historical archive we are creating say about what we did and what our purpose was during these difficult days, who will feature in it, and will it be a past imperfect?