By: John Bonoff
Before a global health crisis pushed everyone deeper into the digital world, the average employee spent about three and a half hours checking and responding to email every day. Now, one could argue that for most office employees working from home in the COVID era, checking email never stops; a hazard of being permanently stationed at your computer. Amid a constant stream of meeting minutes, updates, questions, and requests, employees are now more inundated with digital communication than anyone thought possible—and most of the emails they receive do not actually apply to them. This onslaught can take a toll. Communication fatigue can fracture workflows, inhibit performance, cause work burnout, and even temporarily lower the IQ of those affected.
However, when leaders craft deliberate internal communications that are suited to this new environment, they can alleviate communication fatigue and ensure that the most important messages get through. Use the aspects of effective messaging described below to create employee-friendly, pandemic-proof communications.
First, the look and feel of your company emails may need an update. In a high volume and potentially high stress communication climate, email tone should reflect a sense of simplicity. For instance, when you give a company status update, lean toward clear language that gets the point across plainly, avoids lengthy context, and meets the employee population where they are. Consider creating and personalizing messages for different employee groups, such as managers, or those in specific locations. The reason for each company email should be abundantly clear when communicating with remote workers, to ensure that trust and engagement remain high, and that key messages get through when it matters most.
Before sending a message to large employee groups, check to make sure the content is essential or valuable to those on the receiving end. Does this information impact them personally or professionally? Can it be relayed through other means? Offering an update on company financials can serve to relieve employee stress and keep everyone on the same page, but certain details may bog down the essential message and create more confusion. These details may be better received in a virtual town hall, where open discussion can take place. Communication fatigue will increase when employees receive information that they do not need through a channel that has been deemed essential. Refine each piece of your internal communications by trying to scale it down to the most crucial aspects.
In addition to the style and relevance of each company message that goes out, you’ll want to address the frequency of your internal communications, and avoid overloading employees. Do your best to keep track of what was said in each company communication, and establish a messaging cadence that employees can count on. Consider using a communications platform, such as GuideSpark Communicate Cloud®, to organize and personalize each message, and recognize when message frequency may be contributing to communication fatigue.
4. Communication Channel
In the ever-evolving challenge that is COVID-19, it’s common for leaders to have one plan on Monday, and another on Friday. To avoid overwhelming employees with messages every step of the way, consider what other types of delivery channels can be used to track ongoing events and initiatives. A quick update or reminder may be better suited to an instant messaging platform like Slack, and the details of a new company strategy may come across clearest through a virtual face-to-face meeting with each department, or an ad hoc message. Play to the strengths of every communication channel to take the pressure off employee inboxes.
Every company has its own unique challenges for internal communications, because employees are all different. In the same vein, employees can impart wisdom on how to overcome these issues if they are treated as a resource. Using feedback surveys and polls, source employee sentiment on how the company distributes information, and allow them to share their thoughts and experiences around how the process might be improved. Read this article on how to effectively communicate with a diverse workforce for more tips in this area. A big part of easing communication fatigue is ensuring that employees know the information they receive is coming from people they know; people who are fallible, open to feedback, and able to participate in a dialogue about what the company needs and what employees need.
Last year, American workers were on the receiving end of 576 billion emails. For each employee, this translates to over 100 business-related emails every day; nearly half of which were either spam or irrelevant to the reader. On top of that, the recent transformation of the working world has only exacerbated communication overload; every team initiative, process change, and heart-to-heart conversation is now a part of the same digital experience, and when employees log in, things can quickly feel crowded. Keeping up with the information that really matters can seem overwhelming, even impossible. Luckily, leaders can meet their people halfway, with communication that is built for this new employee experience. By keeping language direct and relevant, and leaning on all communication channels, including feedback, leaders can guide employees away from communication fatigue, and toward the information employees need to be safe, productive, and engaged at work