Back at the end of March, VO Event organised a webinar in collaboration with its colleagues from ABCI and Utopix, under the initiative of PASS, to understand the challenges and needs of corporate communicators. The objective was to elicit solutions for re-establishing the link between employees and their company. Recent studies show that 59% of workers today feel disconnected from their organisation.
7 experts were invited to the PASS Science Center to discuss and interact with an online audience for 2 hours, debating the psychological and social effects that the pandemic is having on the health of home workers while identifying their needs and expectations.
Around the table were YVES COPPIETERS, epidemiologist, FRANÇOIS LAMBOTTE, professor of communication at UCLouvain, FABIAN VANHOUCHE, client services director at VO Event, MAXIME ARCARI, CEO and founder of Utopix, CHRIS VICEROY, general manager of PASS, CEDRIC DEGELEAN, CEO and founder of Keymax, and CHRISTINE DONJEAN, specialist in internal communication at ABCI.
Faced with individual and collective torpor
A Moodfactory-UCLouvain study based on 3 surveys, carried out in 02/2020, 04/2020 and 02/2021 on Belgian workers’ satisfaction with internal communication, available from the ABCI, highlights worrying signs of malaise on the part of both employees and managers. The negative effects of working remotely are undeniably creating a loss of connection and sense of belonging. This is the case even more so now that pandemic burnout is present in every segment of the population, and the latest Codeco recommendations leave little hope of rapid change. Worker engagement is at a low ebb: stress is having a huge impact, affecting mental health, motivation and productivity in the workplace.
Workers are in need of communication, dialogue, proximity and opportunities for exchange and participation on topics outside of their respective tasks. They are asking for content orientated towards the vision of the organisation and its future, to find meaning and give perspective beyond the crisis.
We asked the audience to sum up in one word what this year of pandemic meant to them.
The result was quite striking. Clearly the word SOLITUDE is at the top of the list, along with exhaustion, demotivation, lassitude, adaptation and ... working from home.
Lines of action
Several solutions have already proved their worth. The first is organising informal meetings between employees. The aim of these meetings is to give individuals the opportunity to share their experiences and feelings. This get-together makes it possible to re-establish links where the crisis has sometimes created layers (essential/non-essential) within the organisation and damaged cohesion. Another avenue, aimed at managers, is the need to put structure back into the company, to talk about the organisation's project and the challenges for the future, in team meetings or interviews.
When dealing with larger audiences, event communication has always worked with communication departments to help them achieve their objectives in terms of broadcasting messages, sharing values, creating and engaging communities, celebrating, collaborating on projects, etc. The formats are different today but the content and objectives are still very much present and achievable. Hybrid events are evolving day by day and continue to generate strong emotions. The screen is no longer seen as a form of restriction, but as a solution that allows interaction and sharing despite the remoteness, in order to feel part of the community again.
It also enables communication at any time and in complete security, to reach a local, national and international audience, to interact and to engage while reducing the environmental footprint.
And tomorrow, how will we live with the virus?
Professor Coppieters reminds us that an epidemic always has an end, whether it comes through vaccination or treatment. The public authorities have an undeniable responsibility, but individual and collective communities can also take the initiative, carry out pilot projects, not remain passive, and lobby the public authorities to resume activities with interim protocols.
As event organisers, we are moving towards intermediate events that require surveying participants (overcoming the fear of taking part, etc.) and designing events that have the capacity to evolve over time, to be creative and flexible as the situation evolves.
Everything suggests that we are moving towards a new way of consuming information and establishing links in companies.There is no doubt that, after the crisis, physical events will be held, but a significant part of digital will remain for various reasons.
We must continue to reinvent the way we meet, reinstate routines, adapt our working methods - re-establish the link between and with colleagues. What has worked and will continue to work is transparency and clarity of communication. Respecting the protocols and having intermediate scenarios is the only way we will be able to return to normal life! Together, we can reinvent what it means to be present at work.