Reading the Virtual Room: How to Effectively Communicate with Your Remote Workforce

More than three years have passed since COVID-19 first swept the globe, but many health care organizations are still recovering from a crisis that overwhelmed their facilities, stripped them of life-saving supplies and drove their staff to the brink of burnout. Lockdowns pushed some of these workers into fully remote arrangements for the first time in their careers, while others on the front lines remained in person and onsite. This led to a seismic shift in the way employees connect and communicate with each other and their leaders, and it’s something plenty of organizations are still grappling with today.

We transitioned out of the pandemic but now we are learning a new normal living amongst fluctuating covid cases and onsets

As we continue to live and work hand-and-hand with COVID-19 on spreads and fluctuating cases,

As we acclimate to the reality of coexisting with COVID-19 and the challenges posed by case fluctuations, it’s important not to lose sight of the lessons learned at the height of the pandemic. These insights can future-proof your internal communications strategy to ensure it meets the needs of your entire workforce, whether employees are working from home, the office or an exam room.


Audit Your Existing Communications Strategy

What worked three years (or even three months) ago may no longer be an efficient solution. Even if remote or hybrid work has been baked into your organization’s operating model since day one, it’s important to routinely assess your communications processes and identify where you can make improvements.

The first and most critical resource to tap is your workforce. Surveys can reveal employee preferences around timing, frequency, channel and type of communication—the key, of course, is to actually integrate this feedback into your internal communications plan going forward. Soliciting and acting on feedback has the added benefit of boosting morale and the employee experience. Given the current state of HR affairs, especially with headlines like this one hitting the health care press, organizations can’t afford not to be thinking about the employee experience.

Batten Down the Digital Hatches

Health records contain some of the most sensitive information about a person and setting up security measures to protect this data has always been a priority – and federal requirement – for health care organizations. Everything from electronic medical records (EMR) to emails must be handled with care, because even with HIPAA-compliant communication tools, cyber threats are as rampant as ever. In fact, cyberattacks have only climbed in recent months as people continue to work from home or other remote locations where internet connections aren’t validated or properly secured.

Phishing remains the largest and most damaging threat to businesses, accounting for 90% of all breaches organizations face. Educate your team on password best practices, software updates and how to recognize phishing attempts to reduce your risk of a breach. Additionally, make sure to develop a crisis communications plan in the event of a digital attack. How will you reach your employees if your email systems are under attack? While we never want to think a crisis will occur, it’s paramount to be prepared.

Mix it up to Combat Digital Fatigue

With calendars full of back-to-back Zoom meetings and Slack messages piling up, employees are fatigued. That means your last newsletter or Teams message likely went unopened and unread.  Switching up your content and delivery mix will help ease the burden on a digitally oversaturated workforce and increase the chances that your communications reach their intended audience.

While frontline hospital and health system workers have and always will work onsite, many health care employees in administration and operations have reverted to in-person or hybrid schedules. In-office communication, physical signage and in-person huddles are once again viable channels for dispersing important information, and these non-digital formats help break up your communications cadence to alleviate screen fatigue.

COVID-19 wasn’t the first disruptive global event to transform the way our society functions and it won’t be the last. Fine-tuning your internal processes, understanding how your employees prefer to connect and designing a communications strategy that meets their needs—and your organization’s—will help you stay operational, productive and profitable through rough and calm waters alike.