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About the author: Daniel Gulanowski is an Assistant Professor in the Sprott School of Business.

Adjusting to change is hard; particularly when it is associated with fears, anxieties, and unknowns. During these difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, we face the challenges that come with adjusting to new norms and practices, both personally and professionally. Much of the research I do focuses on solutions to help immigrants and expatriates adjust to the considerable changes of moving to a new country. Living in a new environment offers-up a host of differences (such as social rules), challenges (such as understanding language or navigating geography), and oftentimes fears (in the form of loneliness or lacking appropriate information). To help with mitigating the difficult aspects of immigrant and expatriate relocation, I have found through my research that computer-mediated communication technologies are vital for newcomers to interact, seek and exchange needed advice, and make sense of the available information. Moreover, online interactions can provide a source of companionship and emotional support to cope. So many of these strategies are applicable and useful for organizations to adopt during this time to help their teams adjust to the substantive changes and reduce the negative emotional fallout from this pandemic since traditional in-person means of accessing advice, emotional support, and companionship is limited due to social-distancing measures.

Be Creative with Your Online Communication

Organizations need to ensure they continue to provide effective and relevant information to their employees that is both timely and creates a direct connection with their group—which can include employees, clients, as well as the community at large. Businesses need to think of ways that may generate a more personal approach, such as video chats, blogs, forums, or Twitter. These can help individuals to connect to one another and better deal with and make sense of these unprecedented times. For example, executives and managers can use online video chats to enhance the level of direct communication and engagement with employees; or Twitter to effectively communicate new and updated information to employees and the community. Creating online blogs is highly effective for managers and employees to share personal stories and experiences. As well, online forums provide a platform for employees to safely interact, seek, and exchange appropriate guidance or advice—even opportunities to share stories of life in quarantine or working from home, essentially allowing for open dialogue to happen. These avenues of communication can be especially helpful in dealing with difficult and stressful situations and even be lifelines for those who live on their own or struggle with finding connections with others.

Community Connection

This pandemic has invoked strict and severe social distancing measures, eliminating much of our in-person interactions. This of course can lead to feelings of loneliness and social isolation. This is an opportunity for organizations to foster a sense of community and overall well-being through virtual technologies. Providing appropriate online tools and strategies for employees to access that gives them the opportunity to interact with each other can mitigate feelings of loneliness and isolation by facilitating interactions, networking, and sharing of personal emotions across time and space. Stories can help individuals put their own personal difficulties in context and increase their general psychological comfort by knowing that they are not alone when dealing with these new challenges.

Retain and Attract Employees

With the higher level of unemployment and economic uncertainty, individuals also experience significant stress about their job security and future economic well-being. Governments and organizations can use online technologies to inform and advise individuals about the company’s current and future economic situation to help employees better understand, cope, and adjust to new challenges. Not just for social purposes, businesses can also use these online forums to provide effective and continuous means for employees to seek, co-create, and exchange needed work-related support. It is also prudent that businesses recognize that continued support in areas of job retention, job movement, and even acquiring new hires, is important. Employees want to feel they are valued contributors and secure in their roles. Managers can also participate in forums to exchange information and advice about job and business opportunities, as well as provide emotional support by discussing their own challenges, providing encouragement, and sharing personal success stories.

Connecting virtually is our most essential tool to keep businesses running and to keep everyone connected. It is what allows us to make decisions, feel prepared, manage expectations, as well as reduce our overall stress; all of which can help us all better adjust to the unprecedented changes to our society and work.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020 in , ,
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