We’ve always said any interaction between your organisation and the wider world is part of your brand. But like many things we’ve always taken for granted, the coronavirus lockdown is testing the limits of this truth.
Under lockdown, your people are more likely to interact with customers, clients and stakeholders from their own homes, using videoconferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Does that mean their surroundings – the living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms pressed into service as home offices – ought to align with your brand?
We’ve seen plenty of examples of people arranging their Zoom backdrops to build their personal brands recently. Various commentators and politicians have appeared on the news in front of carefully arranged bookshelves, clearly intended to indicate their intellectual leanings or even promote their own books. It’s become enough of a trend that there’s now a Twitter account dedicated to analysing the subtle and not-so-subtle messages of the bookshelves.
It’s natural to expect someone’s home to reflect their personal brand. Their employer’s brand is a different matter
But it’s natural to expect someone’s home to reflect their personal brand. For most people, bringing their employer’s brand home is a different matter. It takes effort, and is likely to have an impact on their work–life balance.
For some, that impact will be positive. For those of your people fortunate enough to have dedicated office space in their home, making that space feel more reflective of your brand could actually help maintain that work–life boundary. These employees could benefit from clear suggestions and guidelines. If your brand is vibrant and creative, maybe it’s okay for clients on video calls to see a bit of colourful clutter. If it’s a warm and friendly brand, maybe there’s no need to move those family photos out of frame.
For everyone else, though? Asking them to introduce your brand to their living spaces will only blur the work–life boundary – a boundary that surveys suggest is already under huge pressure from the lockdown. Half of the respondents to an Institute for Employment Studies survey in April 2020 said they weren’t happy with their current work–life balance, and 48 percent said they were putting in longer and more irregular hours than before.
It’s fair to expect a reasonable level of professionalism on video calls made from home; no dirty laundry in the background, for example. But asking any more than that isn’t fair or healthy at the moment. Remember, the customers and clients your people are video calling are in the same boat. If your people’s lives intrude a little on their video calls, they’ll understand.
We’ve always found it useful to expand the lens of brand to cover, not just written and designed communications, but interpersonal interactions like customer service phone calls and engineer call-outs as well. It’s a more holistic approach to brand, which can strengthen the overall experience for your people and your customers.
But in this unusual and difficult situation we’re in, the power of your brand is best used to support your people, not to put more on their plates
Remember, the customers and clients your people are video calling are in the same boat
For example, why not provide your people with a selection of custom branded backgrounds for their video calls? This gives their contacts a more branded experience, while removing the need for your people to be self-conscious about their surroundings, and avoiding your brand outstaying its welcome in anyone’s personal space.
Supportive actions like this can help remind your people why yours is an organisation they can believe in, even through difficult times.