It was all supposed to be over by now. I have no doubt that, in years to come, we will all look back at the last 18 months as career defining, a time when we really made a difference, a time when people stopped questioning the value of communications teams and when we were at the top table every day.
Right now though, it can be pretty exhausting. Covid continues with variants, new waves, surge testing, vaccine hesitancy and the ‘whack a mole’ management of local outbreaks. Council comms teams, working with their partners across the public sector and beyond, are constantly called to the fore. At the same time all of our business-as-usual work has returned, combined in many cases with the new initiatives of post-election administrations and a totally understandable desire to deliver the things that have been on hold.
It’s great that we are at the heart of things and in a lot of cases we have more influence than we’ve ever had within our organisations and beyond. But it is hard work and in some cases it’s relentless. Looking after our teams and prioritising their wellbeing is more important than ever. Many are still at home and that can make that process harder and we mustn’t assume that the last 18 months – where many of us have heard infection figures and hospital rates at our kitchen tables – won’t have some lasting effect.
Virtual coffee breaks aren’t the same, but they are something, as are the Euro sweepstakes and online birthday celebrations taking place on Teams and Zoom across the country. Time spent with your team, the small talk you would normally do at the start of an in-person meeting and a collective chat about what might be helpful are never wasted. For managers, being open about the challenges and showing some vulnerability can help to give colleagues ‘permission’ to acknowledge their own difficulties.
There are opportunities too. More remote working offers a better work/life balance for many. Less commuting should have a positive difference on our pockets and the planet. Comms teams have never had higher currency internally, or greater influence externally, than now. It would be misguided to think that we will keep all of the new engagement we have achieved over the last year, but perhaps we can keep some. It’d be great to hear your thoughts and experiences on this.
If the issues above are ones you are experiencing the next LGcomms event on the 29 June at 2.30pm might be for you. ‘Comms in a world of constant Covid’ will bring together comms leaders from Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Telford & Wrekin to share their thoughts and ideas on how we keep going and stay well, effective and influential.
If you’ve got an hour to spare, it would be an hour very well spent.
Julie Odams is Assistant Director of Communications & Customers at Derbyshire County Council