It’s important for every workplace to emphasize good communication, but with so many people working remotely, it’s even more critical for businesses to put good communications strategies in place, says Yanni Hufnagel, CEO of the lemon water company Lemon Perfect. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused major shifts in the way employees and managers interact. In the current climate of upheaval and uncertainty, managers need to approach communications with greater thoughtfulness. Yanni Hufnagel established his breakthrough beverage startup with an emphasis on creating an open, transparent company culture. A key part of his approach is managing communications and adapting his communication strategies to meet the needs of the current moment of crisis. Yanni Hufnagel notes that managers need to be attuned to the emotions and stressors their employees are experiencing as they navigate new expectations in work-life balance and working from home with young children and others who need their care.
First and foremost, Yanni Hufnagel says, managers need to reassure employees that there are processes in place to help them accomplish their goals, manage their work-life balance, and to support them if they or a loved one should become sick. A mind focused on worry will be incredibly distracted from attending to the work tasks at hand. So what can a manager do? Hufnagel says he or she needs to clearly explain how the COVID-19 crisis may directly impact employees’ jobs and compensation and what resources are being offered for support. This includes updating employees regularly on: what steps a company is taking to protect employees’ jobs; whether there is any discussion of reduced hours, or pay or hiring freezes; explaining the process for any promotions or applications that were in consideration before the crisis hit; and detailing the resources available if an employee or loved one falls ill. Employees are thinking about their financial security, and health prospects, and it’s important to address these concerns head-on, providing transparency, in order to maintain trust and a positive work culture.
Transparency, for Lemon Perfect, extends throughout every aspect of the company culture, from manager-employee communications to the products’ clear ingredient labeling (featuring organic, hand-picked, cold-pressed California lemons), the certification standards the product meets (USDA organic, certified vegan and gluten-free), and the beverage company’s numerous environmental commitments—with bottles made from BPA-free, recyclable plastic and one percent of profits donated to environmental causes. That transparency is also reflected in the company motto: “Democratize drinkable wellness.”
But it’s not enough to simply tell employees that there are processes in place to support them. It’s just as vital in this time of widespread uneasiness for managers to remind employees of what they are doing right. When employees are faced with shifting expectations, an utterly new work procedure, and numerous outside stressors, it’s more important than ever that they have validation for the positive contributions they are making.
These words of encouragement can be shared privately through positive email messages, but also publicly, during virtual staff meetings. Throughout the week, managers should take note of the ways their employees are exercising creativity, taking initiative, and exceeding expectations, Hufnagel says, and celebrate those individuals and actions during staff meetings. This communicates to employees that their hard work and resilience is being noticed, promotes a culture of celebrating wins, and ensures that employees feel valued. It also sends a clear signal to other members of the team that good work is rewarded.
And it’s not just manager-employee communications that can break down during long stretches of remote work, but the more general day-to-day inter-office communications so essential to timely and efficient business. Yanni Hufnagel suggests that it’s important to find new ways to simplify back-and-forth, conversational discussions that are part of team projects and group efforts. He advises companies to look to digital platforms like Microsoft Teams, Asana, and Slack to find a way to replicate that easy communication. It’s important, he notes, to provide digital training tools on best practices for the use of whichever platform is chosen, and to oversee the roll-out with frequent check-ins to ensure that it is being successfully adopted. Consider having teams who use the platform successfully present to the larger group on their experiences, Hufnagel says, and make sure that there is a process in place for navigating questions and concerns that arise.
And in terms of teams, this moment when everyone is working remotely from separate locations drives additional need to create smaller, focused teams within workplaces to share ideas, collaborate, and move projects forward. Under normal circumstances, these workplace collaborations spring up organically during the course of daily work. In this new moment of forced and long-term remote work, managers may need to create small teams intentionally, Hufnagel says. Bring employees together in distinct smaller units to tackle specific work goals, and encourage them to host regular remote meetings, utilize digital teams’ platforms and file-sharing software, and create smaller networks of accountability. This will ensure that communications around specific projects are not being held up as employees wait for manager buy-in or response.
So much of a manager’s job, particularly in navigating this moment of high stress and high uncertainty, is to keep operations functioning, to provide reassurance, and then to delegate to effective employee leaders. Yanni Hufnagel, CEO of Lemon Perfect, notes that this is the perfect opportunity to put the trust that he’s developed with his employees into action. He has done his job of hiring the best people to fill these roles, and now he is empowering them to work together to achieve the work objectives that he’s laid out. It’s more important now than ever, he notes, for a manager not to become an obstacle to work progress, so that every decision large and small must filter through him, but rather to support employees in overseeing projects, reporting back with regular updates and achievements.
It looks as though we will be dealing with the impact of the coronavirus on workplaces for some time to come. But with smart communication strategies focused on transparency and positivity, Yanni Hufnagel says, we may come out of this time as more effective businesses with happier employees.
About Lemon Perfect
Lemon Perfect is a naturally refreshing, zero sugar cold-pressed lemon water with antioxidants and electrolytes. Certified organic and full of flavor, Lemon Perfect is widely considered by industry insiders to be one of the most scalable, exciting, and innovative emerging beverage concepts in the marketplace.
About Yanni Hufnagel
Yanni Hufnagel is the Founder & CEO of Lemon Perfect, a naturally refreshing, zero sugar cold-pressed lemon water with essential antioxidants and hydrating electrolytes. Certified organic and full of flavor, Lemon Perfect – named “Best New Product” at BevNET’s Best of 2019 Awards – is widely considered by industry insiders to be one of the most scalable, exciting and innovative emerging beverage concepts in the marketplace.
Founded in 2017 and backed by an extraordinary team of investors, the company’s mission is to democratize drinkable wellness by making Lemon Perfect accessible for anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Before starting Lemon Perfect, Hufnagel served as an assistant men’s college basketball coach, with stops at Nevada, California, Vanderbilt, Harvard, and Oklahoma. Hufnagel earned the reputation as one of the most dogged recruiters in America, consistently lauded for signing nationally-ranked recruiting classes. In Hufnagel’s 10 years coaching college basketball, his teams reached the NCAA Tournament six times.