This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center

Dr. Hilke Steenkamp and Dr. Ganga Dhanesh examined strategies used by organizations to maintain relationships with employees over remote or hybrid working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researchers conducted 13 in-depth interviews with communications and human resources leaders from 10 companies in best employer lists in 2021 and 2022. The interviews were held in person or online from March – May 2022, with an average length of about 45–60 minutes per interview.

Organizations used the following strategies to build relationships with employees in a remote or hybrid workplace:

1.) Organizations granted access to organizational decision making for employees. 
2.) Employers used assurance to legitimize employees’ concerns. 
3.) Positivity was used in communication to make employee-organization relationships more enjoyable.
4.) Openness was used to ensure open and honest communication with employees. 
5.) Several strategies that center on care for employees were also used during the pandemic. These included:
Empathy: Demonstrating the organization’s concern for employees and respecting their feelings.
Purpose: Communicating organizational purpose clearly and creating a sense of shared purpose with employees.
Diversity climate: Fostering inclusive workplace and empowering employees to choose preferred modes of working.

Implications for Practice

Organizations operating in remote/hybrid work contexts should engage in organizational listening and two-way communication with employees who are navigating uncertain and challenging environments. Organizations should also monitor communication frequency with employees. Employees’ voices and concerns can be collected via innovative virtual platforms and diverse communication channels and sources.

Furthermore, organizations should make efforts to understand employees’ emotional and psychological states and meet employees’ needs. Finally, organizations can involve both HR and communication professionals to create and communicate wellness programs to address employees’ concerns.

Steenkamp, H., & Dhanesh, G. S. (2023). Care-based relationship management during remote work in a crisis: Empathy, purpose, and diversity climate as emergent employee-organization relational maintenance strategies. Public Relations Review, 49(4), 102371.

Find the original research here.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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