Returning from lockdown

As businesses prepare for the biggest back-to-office migration the world has ever seen, Shreena Patel finds that good communication is essential to success

Companies across the world are preparing for the day when they can reopen their office doors to employees – some have already started to do so. Although individual circumstances vary, one thing is for sure. Returning to the office won’t be as immediate as entering lockdown; the journey will be much more nuanced.

Step by step

Many businesses are likely to adopt a phased approach, reopening on an office-by-office basis, with colleagues returning at different times and to different degrees. There are a host of factors to take into account aside from safety in the office itself, from government guidance to transport concerns to customer and colleague sentiment. Even as offices reopen, COVID-19 will continue to pose a health risk and restrictions may be reintroduced in the case of further breakouts.

Inspire confidence, not confusion

All this adds up to considerable risk of confusion, especially for businesses with offices in different countries – and that’s on top of continued uncertainty about the virus itself. Clear, accurate, consistent messaging is critical to make sure colleagues know what is going on and to give them – and customers – much-needed confidence.

What does this mean for communications teams? Those working across different countries must be able to tailor their communications for local needs, while remaining aligned. This is where a global messaging toolkit can help, by providing an overarching structure, guidance and templates that create a sense of coherence and ‘one firm-ness’, while giving local teams the flexibility they need.

What is a global messaging toolkit?

When we develop toolkits for our clients, we start with five core elements…

  1. Strategy – What is the approach in simple terms, for returning to the office? What factors are being taken into account? What does this mean for colleagues and what do they need to understand?
  2. Key communication pillars – What are the fundamental messages you want to communicate to colleagues during this journey? What are the things you want them to feel, know and do? All the content produced should channel at least one of these messages. Ideally, we recommend no more than three.
  3. Visual identity – Much of what you are communicating is likely to be business-critical subject matter. Make your communications recognisable, memorable and impossible to ignore with a strong visual brand – but, remember, it should still feel part of your business.
  4. Guidance – This is particularly important for companies with multiple communications teams across different countries. How would someone in, say, Malaysia and then the US and then Germany pick up this toolkit and know how to communicate with their colleagues using the tools provided?
  5. Templates – What types of content do you want your communications teams to develop and for what purpose? From short animations on health and safety to digital newsletters reporting on progress to posters reminding people about new rules on social distancing. Providing templates for key pieces of content will improve speed of delivery and consistency of communications across locations, while giving regional communications teams enough flexibility to adapt them for local needs.

For help getting your communications teams aligned and giving them the tools to support colleagues across the business now and into the future, get in touch.

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Shreena Patel

Associate Director, Critical Issues

Shreena focuses on a range of strategic positioning, narrative and development projects.

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