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Internal communication during crises

This blogpost is part of the “Belonging is a mindset” blog series derived from my academic research on ‘internal communication and belonging in the virtual workplace’ for the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. The data from this study was collected from new hires who started their jobs in the middle of the pandemic and internal communication practitioners. This blogpost is part of my literature review.

Faced with acute uncertainty, internal communication helps employees navigate change (DuFrene and Lehman 2014) and advance through crises (Kim 2018; Mazzei et al. 2012).

As far as crises are concerned, the coronavirus pandemic is like no other. At the onset of the pandemic, employee trust in leaders was low (Syed 2020). As the workplace moved to a virtual space, traditional command-and-control leadership could not function effectively.

Internal communication, manifested through leadership communication, necessarily placed more emphasis on leading by example and work-life balance (Bojadjiev and Vaneva 2021). Leaders were faced with the task of managing not only their employees’ workloads but also their emotions (Yeomans and Bowman 2021; Einwiller et al. 2021; Ecklebe and Löffler 2021).

The coronavirus pandemic had an immediate impact on how we work, lead and communicate at work because the virus was new and rules changed constantly. Employees were feeling insecure, were worried, and anxious as they were asked to make changes in the ways they have always worked. There were also lives at stake with every decision that an organisation made. Many employees were furloughed, parents were forced to work while parenting at the same time (Thomas et al 2020), a lot grieved the loss of loved ones, and many had to think of other ways of selling their products than face-to-face or reinventing the way they do business (Albonico et al. 2020; Baig et al. 2020; Craven et al. 2020; Retail Insider 2020; De Smet 2021).

All these factors demanded communication that is not only timely and regular but more empathetic, transparent, and appreciative (Kartikawangi and Dahesihsari 2020; Antonacopoulou and Georgiadou 2021; Li et al. 2021; Ruck and Men 2021).

Next up

In the next blogpost, we will talk about the role of internal communication in creating a sense of belonging in the workplace.


  • You will find a full list of references here.
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