This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center

The awareness that employee engagement plays a vital role in improving job performance and organizational effectiveness has led companies to pay increasing attention to keeping employees engaged. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies faced the challenge of maintaining employee engagement during a crisis. In addition to dealing with the complexity and unfamiliarity of working remotely, employees could face work-related anxiety due to the potential economic fallout. Moreover, when working remotely during a crisis, employees can easily feel exhausted and less engaged if their work is demanding and lacks adequate resources. To cope with the situation, the current study’s authors argued that companies should strengthen strategic internal crisis communication and more flexible work arrangements. They examined how communicative resources of two-way communication, internal crisis communication content (i.e., informative content that describes the situation, identification content that communicates the organizational culture and identity, and factual content that covers the actions undertaken by the organization) and objectives (security, belonging, and activating behavior), and new ways of working (NWW) impact employee engagement. They also looked at social connection as a bridge connecting new ways of working and employee engagement.

The authors conducted an online survey in 2020. The participants of the study were recruited from the United Arab Emirates and included individuals from the MENA region, India, and Pakistan who were aged 18 and above. The survey was offered in English and Arabic. A sample of 304 participants was obtained, with 60.5% men and 39.5% women. Most employees were between 25 and 44 years old (84.2%), married with children (58.2%), Asian (59.9%), and living in Dubai (57.2%). All participants were working from home at the time of data collection.

Key Findings
1.) Organizations that employ two-way communication are more likely to engage remote employees in the case of a prolonged crisis.
2.) Producing content that aims to strengthen trust in and identification with the organization by explicating the organization’s values, strategies, and long-term outlook can boost employee engagement. The content of internal crisis communication, whether about information, identification, or fact, can motivate and encourage employees to stay engaged at work.
3.) When employees have to suddenly shift into remote work that could potentially be isolating, it is not enough to provide employees with a sense of control over their time, work, and communication media. These new ways of working must also enable the social connection.

Implications for Practice 
Internal communication professionals should 1.) focus on providing opportunities for two-way communication that will allow employees to share their concerns, particularly when they are away from their physical workplaces during crises, and 2.) ensure that new ways of working include technological affordances that can bolster social connection, such as the use of video conferencing over e-mail.

Dhanesh, G. S., & Picherit-Duthler, G. (2021). Remote internal crisis communication (RICC)–the role of internal communication in predicting employee engagement during remote work in a crisis. Journal of Public Relations Research, 1-22.

Location of Article
This article is available online here.
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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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