As communicators begin to move back toward working in the office, V2 Communications founder and partner Maura Fitzgerald has a few basic ground rules for how companies should handle the return.
"The thing to think about first is safety," she says, closely followed by comfort level. "You want people to feel that they have a choice. And if they elect to continue to work from home, we can accommodate that, regardless of where they're located geographically."
No matter what a company's plans for bringing people back to the office are, Fitzgerald says a steady flow of information is key. "It's up to us to communicate our messages to our employees with a lot of clarity, a lot of candor, and a lot of frequency," she tells Simon. "People need to hear from us and need to hear how we're viewing the workplace amid the pandemic almost on a weekly basis."
She also says that it's essential for companies to be up to speed on the technology that's required to make sure employees can be productive in a hybrid environment. "We tried to upgrade so that if people were communicating with clients or with one another through Zoom when they were in the office that at least the equipment worked, that they could hear each other, that it was the best we had available to us."
And while Fitzgerald says that, for her, Zoom is "a poor substitute for face-to-face communication," she stresses that "there's no judgment" if employees prefer to work from home. "As long as the clients are happy and we're getting great results for them, we're perfectly happy to accommodate" whatever they want to do.
When it comes to her opinion on how to effectively manage employees in this environment, Fitzgerald comes back to the central impotratnce of communication. "When we don't have physical proximity to each other, it's so important to just keep that dialogue going."
She also talks about the central role that CEOs need to play in communicating a company's message. "It's part of the CEO's responsibility as an organizational leader and a brand steward to be out in front of the company."
That's increasingly important in light of the increased role that social issues are taking at every level of a company. "Employees expect their companies to be social stewards, and they expect them to stand for something and to live their values. The best places to work are good social and societal members, and CEO leadership needs to play into that big time."
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