Let’s not go back to normal

Let's not go back to normal | Housing communications

When we eventually reach the other side of this pandemic, we could find ourselves working within organisational cultures that have changed, and for the better. So, let’s not completely go back to normal.

Right now, we’re all in this together. Staying at home, keeping away from an undiscriminating virus, we are all restricted to remaining within our own four walls.

Yes, some may have more space between their walls than others – but chief executive, manager or apprentice, we’re essentially in the same situation. Corner offices are no more, and workplace politics are irrelevant.

Instead, we’re having more direct conversations, conference calls and video chats, during which we stick to crucial matters. For housing providers, these are helping residents and team members to stay safe, providing reassurance, and keeping essential services running.

These are uncertain times, but in some ways, we have more clarity than ever: we know what we’re doing and why.

When something that looks and feels more like our everyday lives return, we need to remember what it was like to be driven by necessity, to communicate clearly, and to support one another to achieve our most important, shared objectives.

Greater empowerment and trust

When Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), addressed last year’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ (CIPR)’s National Conference on the subject of ‘rebuilding trust from the inside out’he would have had no idea what lay around the corner. 

“Living in an uncertain world means you have to be able to deal with paradox and uncertainty – but you’ve also got to have clear narrative, you’ve got to be agile and you’ve got to be able to respond,” he stated at the event, held in November. “You can’t just hunker down and pretend things are just the same as they always were.” 

There are certain things we shouldn’t allow back into our workplaces. ‘Command and control’-style leadership, and micro-management are two of them. 

Leaders are having no choice but to let go of things they’ve hitherto relied upon. Presenteeism, for example, isn’t possible; meanwhile, working in silos and keeping knowledge to yourself is particularly irresponsible amidst a crisis.

Organisations must trust their people and empower them to do the work they need to do, whilst enabling them to keep themselves and their families safe and well at home.

“It’s the right thing to be more transparent, to be more open, because if we don’t, I think we’re going to be forced to,” Cheese told CIPR members – and he’s already being proven correct. 

Valuing the frontline

Another thing that will hopefully change for the better, for the long term, is the amount of respect and gratitude we have for the frontline workers – NHS staff and teachers, of course, but also the care workers, housing professionals and repairs operatives – who are delivering essential care, support and services during this Coronavirus outbreak. 

To build and maintain a reputation for being an authentic, trustworthy organisation, it is currently even more crucial to be able to demonstrate that you are communicating with team members, keeping them informed about any difficult decisions that need to be made during these extraordinary times.

A lot of good communications is about understanding what your stakeholders need from you – and right now, staff members need to feel part of a team, even if they’re not physically amongst their co-workers.

As the CIPD’s Cheese told the CIPR, “You can’t have a fantastic customer value proposition if you’re not looking out for your employees” – and, these days, looking out for employees involves keeping in touch, listening to concerns, and being as upfront as possible.

Getting strategic with PR

See Media has previously written about how, from a PR point-of-view, knowing what an organisation professes to be about, and then being able to marry this with what its people say and do, enables comms colleagues to focus on what’s important. 

Greater transparency means that comms can strategically manage responses to issues, set goals and objectives, and more effectively target key messages at relevant stakeholders. 

Comms teams can provide organisations with a greater understanding of where they sit within the bigger picture, and help predict the way their actions will be interpreted by others. 

Let’s not go back to normal

Our new normal could be one in which there is greater appreciation for how connected and co-dependent we all are –which would lead to us being more aware of the ways we engage with our suppliers, partners, funders, residents and staff.

When we get through this, we could all have a clearer idea of why we get up and go to work every day, as well as a new sense of exhilaration at being able to venture beyond our own front doorsteps. 


Lydia Stockdale is PR Director at See Media