Top 7 Change Management Communication Tips for Reducing Stress and Building Resilience in Families Working from Home – Part 2
Welcome back SuperWAHM’s. I’m curious – how are you going adapting to change with your family all working from home now?
In Part 1 of my Change Management Communication Tips for Families Working from Home I went through the first 3 tips around: Being clear on your why; managing your stakeholders, and; identifying blockers.
Today I wanted to share with you my final tips based on change management communication methodology we implemented as a family to reduce stress, build resilience and adapt to working from home.
Tip 4: Create the key messages including ‘What’s in it for me?’
In any change, understanding the current state and knowing the desired future state allows you to conduct an analysis of the gap you need to cross. This helps define the change and what needs to be done. It also helps get a sense of the capacity and capability of the stakeholder groups and the skills required to make it happen.
Organisational change management commonly relates to technical or system changes, company mergers, location changes or employee changes. In our case, adapting to working from home meant we needed to address practical things like working spaces, desk set ups and technical checks.
The key messages for our family around corona virus were stay at home unless you have to go to work, do grocery shopping or exercise. And practise social distancing when going out. Pretty simple. However, we also needed to include communication about washing and sanitising hands and use of face masks. These messages required family face to face discussions, reviewing infographics and text online and watching videos. And the messages from authorities kept evolving and required updates and reminders.
The key change messages in our family were support each other, ask for help, no visitors to the house, respect each other’s spaces and work requirements. Some of these were more formal discussions or direct requests, others were informal guidelines that evolved though a shared sense of cooperation and just getting on with it.
Change management communication must be clear, accurate and consistent. If not, people make up their own stories and rumours to fill the void and misinformation happens. It is critical to address ‘What’s in it for me?’ for each stakeholder group or individual. For the virus-related messages it was ‘Do this and you will avoid getting sick or infecting others.’ For our family it was about your mental and emotional wellbeing, ability to do your work, and being supported and encouraged to make behavioural changes and take responsibility.
Tip 5: Create appropriate messages and select the right communication channels
Different stakeholders need different information, delivered at different times and by various people. Sometimes the information may be classified, sensitive or distressing. When this is the case, remember to take into account different thinking styles. Some people are big picture thinkers, others like to know the social impact and others may need all the detailed steps. As a guide try using:
- Face to face communication for more complex information paired with text and pictures.
- Text based and graphics for simple messages.
- Paper or a whiteboard to draw while talking with people.
- A written and spoken tone of voice that’s positive and highlights what we can control.
My wife teaches older teenagers with autism and learning difficulties. This is usually done in a classroom environment with careful planning around structure and learning delivery. She now needed to teach while working from home via online channels and within school policy and education department constraints. This meant communicating to parents and students differently and using alternative learning methods to encourage parental assistance in the teaching process.
While some students and parents adapted fairly well, others are resistant to change and bounce between anger and denial, and acceptance and responsibility. This is a common reaction to change. My wife’s change management communication methods and messages needed to be empathetic and also directive to lead students and parents in the required direction.
Tip 6: Involve people in the ‘how’ with two-way communication and feedback
Now, getting back to our neighbours and their preferred communication style. Their key message to us was along the lines of ‘Can you get your son to stop playing saxophone or move to another part of your house? The noise is interfering with our daughter’s schooling from home?’ This was sent as a note in our letter box. The room my son usually practices saxophone in and teaches piano from, is at the front of our house and apparently near their daughter’s bedroom where she studies. Well, my son took this as a personal insult and needed a little time to cool off.
After some family discussion, we sought to find a solution that would work for everyone. Engaging all parties in how the change is to be implemented is always a smart approach. It encourages participation and ownership of the change and the required actions. People, including families, will follow their own ideas and the best ideas often come from the people directly affected by the change.
My son crafted a nice reply message on paper and invited our neighbours to call or text him to continue the discussion and for feedback. He swapped study rooms with my wife, but still kept to his saxophone practice schedule. The next day he received a large box of Easter chocolates and another note thanking him for making the change and being nice. He also received a slightly apologetic text saying the original letter was likely from the daughter, and that the sound levels were now much better.
Since then, my son adopted this proactive approach and got in touch with all of his music students by phone and email and involved them in how they would like to continue their lessons. This feedback resulted in a positive response with over half of them choosing to have online video music lessons. This helps with my son with cashflow, builds relationships with his students, and shows he is serious about teaching them and cares enough to make it happen.
Tip 7: Recognise, reward and celebrate success
Many change initiatives often take months and require ongoing effort and continuous refinement of plans and methods along the way. One of the best ways to get a critical mass of people believing in the change and taking action is to reward and recognise successes of early adopters. It helps to encourage feedback from those undergoing the change. Good communication is a two way and listening to feedback and measuring results helps identify what is working and who to reward.
Our neighbours recognised our son’s solution and collaborative approach to adjusting his saxophone practice and he was rewarded with nice Easter chocolate. As a family we are taking turns cooking and being appreciative of the cook and the meal during this corona virus lockdown period. We also share longer periods of time together over dinner and talk. Other positives coming out of the change are my wife and I go for more walks, my son set up a home gym, my daughter buys food and cooks more wonderful meals. All reasons to celebrate small successes.
How will your family now accept changes using these change communication methods?
This change still has a long way to go. And our family are still working things out and we are far from perfect. We don’t know when we’ll resume a ‘normal’ back to work regime, or even what the new normal may look like. One thing is certain and that is waves of change will continue. Taking cues from change management communication enabled us to accept the corona virus driven change to working from home. It’s also helped create a family environment to build resilience, accept the changes and be flexible enough to keep moving in the direction of our desired future state.
Now, if I can just get Ollie to change and stop standing outside my study door and miaowing for food in the afternoon. I am sure his preferred communication channel is through his stomach!