“There are some people who could hear you speak a thousand words, and still not understand you. And there are others who will understand — without you even speaking a word.” ― Yasmin Mogahed
What exactly is effective communications? How come we can tell someone something and then later, it is as if they never heard what we told them. Effective communication is a mystery at times. And, it is especially aggravated during these difficult times of the COVID pandemic when we are all trying to use technology to communicate.
Even face to face communications can be challenging at the best of times. But, miscommunications during web conferencing calls is causing all kinds of workplace stress to bubble up. Stresses that during normal times might never manifest, or they would get swept away and ignored, are now equivalent to boiling pots of scolding hot water overflowing on the stove top, wildly out of control. People are just not themselves. These stresses are disrupting communications and having a negative impact on business. Right now, in these pandemic times, any upset to business is absolutely unwelcome.
During a pandemic there is a lot of false information around therefore it is vital to have a dedicated company COVID-19 information portal. A company can own its dedicated integrated COVID-19 web portal, supported with a national, regional, and local helpline number, authentic email ID, social connection hubs on WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Whatever media vehicle that works as the best means to communicate effectively is acceptable. The richer the media the better. Stale old emails can be easily misinterpreted, so a video chat is considered far more effective than email. It is the richness of the media that helps the communication hit the mark and enforces the human connections.
School Kids Embrace Virtual Learning
In contrast, it has been my personal observation that school children are already adapting to the new reality for virtualized education. After just about 1.5 months in to this new paradigm, I have noticed a distinct shift in their adoption of the new ways to learn.
As I walk for exercise every day, I have spoken to many school-age kids in my neighbourhood who attend the two nearby grade schools. I have asked them all how online virtual learning is going for them? Most say the same thing, that they struggled in the first month, but have found it fine now. They are adapting fast.
Yes, this is a casual observation, but there is something going on here that indicates a change in the acceptance of virtual learning. There are numerous articles and journals published earlier this year that speculated on the negative aspects, reporting the issues, and the many problems of online learning. But, I suspect that this research is lagging the new reality and was speculative. This topic needs to be revisited now that practical experience is building and students are fully engaged in virtual education.
Last Saturday on October 3rd, I presented a workshop on Artificial Intelligence to many attentive high school students as a participant in the First Robotics Canada regional conference. The event was named, 2056 Ways to Inspire. The host was FRC Team 2056 from Orchard Park Secondary School in Stoney Creek, Ontario.
Based solely on the high level of interaction, the quality and volume of student questions, and even in light of the extreme obstacles (Zoom web conference, linked to Twitch TV broadcast, where the Twitch questions were observed and then relayed by a student monitor, to re-ask the questions to me on Zoom) to ask a question, it was crystal clear to me that these technological barriers were of little consequence to the students. They were engaged fully and interactive. So, if we can improve the technology and better deliver content to fit the medium, then the students appear to be fine with the virtualized delivery vehicle.
Given the uncertainty of how students are set to return to the physical classroom, children face a whole host of new potential stressors, and navigating them as a parent can be difficult. Is it more stressful for the parent than the child?
With the return to school, children will have to adjust to new coronavirus norms in the classroom including physical distancing, mask-wearing and, in some places, teachers overdressed in personal protective equipment.
However, experts say there are ways parents can help their child manage back-to-school jitters by looking out for early signs of growing anxiety.
Parents are also coping with the changes and are doing a good job to help their children adopt the new virtualized learning online.
“My wife and I are both still working so it can be a little hectic,” says Ian Mahler, the parent of a student. “We have to make sure that kids are staying on track and doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
Mahler says overall the distance learning is going well.
School boards say it is important to personalize the virtual lessons for students and the goal is for every student to be engaged in learning during these times.
The school year hasn’t been cancelled but students won’t be returning full-time to the classroom until the middle of May 2021 at the earliest here in Ontario.
Why are Adults so Slow to Adopt Virtual Business?
Why cannot adults learn to communicate better online? Why are professional adults who are most often equipped with powerful educational degrees and years of practical business experience not adapting as well as their children?
Just like their children, the adults need leaders and advocates to help them adapt to these new ways to conduct business and perform work tasks virtually.
Language sets humans apart from other species. We use it constantly to tell each other what we feel, think, and need.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. However, these actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. Social media is not helping at all as it is spreading propaganda and falsehoods to stir up even more stress and miscommunications.
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
- Worsening of chronic health problems.
- Worsening of mental health conditions.
- Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.
How you respond to stress during the COVID-19 pandemic can depend on your background, your social support from family or friends, your financial situation, your health and emotional background, the community you live in, and many other factors. The changes that can happen because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ways we try to contain the spread of the virus can affect anyone.
Companies must understand and respect that employees are their most important constituency and function as ambassadors to the community. If they are not informed and do not understand what is going on, communications outside of the organization will be more difficult. Every company needs to demystify the situation for employees, put everyone’s mind at ease, and provide hope for the future.
Studies have shown that leaders, in particular, have a special role reducing employee anxiety. In a study of crisis communications after 9/11, many employees described how important it was to hear the voice of the leader, whether live or through email, phone messages, or social media. When the coronavirus crisis hit the Tuck School, the MBA program leadership team camped out in a central location to ease everyone’s anxiety and provide updates regularly.
When dealing with uncertainty, leaders need to look at communication from the perspective of your audience and have empathy for them rather than fear of doing the wrong thing. This requires companies to communicate when they don’t have all of the information, to reveal as much as they can about sensitive information, and to be vigilant about correcting mistakes without worrying about the repercussions. As tennis champion Billie Jean King once said: “Champions keep playing until they get it right.”
Argenti, P. (2020). Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved on October 8, 2020 from, https://hbr.org/2020/03/communicating-through-the-coronavirus-crisis
Ethier, M. (2020). Students adapting to virtual classrooms. CTV News. Retrieved on October 8, 2020 from, https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/students-adapting-to-virtual-classrooms-1.4900155
Reddy, B. V., Gupta, A. (2020). Importance of effective communication during COVID-19 infodemic. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. Retrieved on October 8, 2020 from, https://www.jfmpc.com/article.asp?issn=2249-4863;year=2020;volume=9;issue=8;spage=3793;epage=3796;aulast=Reddy
Unknown, (2020). Communication Breakdown. National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved on October 8, 2020 from, https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2020/06/communication-breakdown
Unknown. (2020). Coping with Stress. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Division of Viral Diseases. Retrieved on October 8, 2020 from, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies. He is a business and technology consultant. He offers his services on a contracting basis. Over the past 15 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V). He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology. He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section. He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 20 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.