School’s out in the UK now until early September. What does this mean for businesses, internal communications and freelancers?
We’re all impacted by this big summer break, whether parents or not. On the plus side, if you travel to work by car the roads are generally quieter. But if you’re one of the five million who use London’s underground on a daily basis, you could already be feeling the squeeze with increased visitors to the capital.
Working at home
I invested in a garden office over 10 years ago and always get comments such as, “how wonderful to be able to work at home and look out at your garden…” And yes, it totally is, I love it. But extreme heat, such as the 38.5 degrees C recorded in Cambridge on 25 July, are tough in my wooden global HQ . (I know, I need to get an air con unit, but the UK isn’t generally known for hot summers and, just three days after our mini heatwave, it’s 16 degrees C and very wet!)
Working from a garden office means compromise, consideration and tolerance. It’s summer, so of course there will be increased noise from kids enjoying the summer break, impromptu paddling pool parties, loud music from teenagers whose parents are at work, workmen catching up on their outdoor jobs and playing their radios…home workers (i.e. me!) talking loudly on conference calls in the garden. So yes, it’s great, but it’s advisable to have a plan B, such as an indoor work space, hot desk environment or a work-friendly café where you can camp out for a bit.
Whatever the time of year, the P-word (PLANNING) is king
From a business perspective, at this time of year, and indeed at every time of the year, it’s important to plan. Plan in advance for potentially absent stakeholders who will be needed to approve IC activity or sign-off budgets, plan with internal and external providers who help deliver that activity – creative, production and deployment.
As IC professionals we need to get better at planning, as illustrated in this year’s State of the Sector survey from Gatehouse, where only 57% of respondents said they have a written 12-month communication plan.
I spoke to some of my IC network to find out what the summer has in store for them…
Not everyone is on slowdown
Martin Flegg, Internal Communications Consultant, told me how, in some sectors, summer can be one of the busiest times in the calendar for internal communicators.
“School is definitely not out for some of us! I’ve often worked in higher education over the last few years and July, August and September include a few important annual events such as graduations, A-level results day and preparations for the arrival of new students, all of which need internal communications support.
Clearing is a really busy time for a university, particularly the week when A-level results are out in mid-August. Thousands of students who don’t have a university place get in touch to see if they can be offered a place. It’s a real team effort as colleagues from all parts of the university take to the phones and email to answer enquiries and help students find a suitable course. There’s a huge amount of logistical planning goes into this and internal communication plays a crucial part in recruiting volunteers to work on the phones and in keeping everyone up to date with what they need to know before, during and after.
The key to success when doing anything like this, at a time of the year when you will be competing with employees wanting to take time off to go on holiday and spend time with their families, is to start the planning and associated internal communications early……very early.”
The effect of the summer time (and holidays) on comms – an agency and personal perspective
Director of Alive with Ideas, Alan Oram, shares three perspectives on the summer holiday period.
“It would be easy to think that things quieten down over the summer period as people take time off, but I often see something different to this. We typically see a flurry of activity as clients are getting ready for the summer break, tying up loose ends and getting projects completed, and it’s important that we’re prepared for that. More so than normal, we generally see a lot of last-minute requests at a time like this so it can mean all hands-on deck and a little extra focus is required!
July and August are busy months too. This time is often focused on creating and developing strategies, plans and the creative work around comms and campaigns in an effort to be ready to land these in early September. Not everyone will be away or off in the summer period, but it feels safe to land any big activity once we can be more confident that people will be around to see and absorb it.
At Alive (internally)…
Naturally in this period we have people away or that are in and out of the office more frequently. Clear communication and some simple planning help us work around this.
A personal perspective…
My son is old enough to look after himself now, but a few years ago I was a single parent trying to juggle the business, my own work loads and being a dad. I know how it feels to think that you’re failing on all these fronts across the summer period. Splitting your time and headspace isn’t easy. I think anyone trying to do this needs to be honest and kind to themselves about what they can realistically achieve and don’t give yourself a hard time.”
Have a great summer
“Working for yourself, you have to really set your own schedule and routines, which can take some time to get used to. I’ve found that the Summer is a time for me to reflect, take stock on the first half of the year and take some time out.
It can be so easy to just plough on, pushing on to the next client, next event, next month, but now I make sure that I regularly take some time to consider how things are going, what I’ve achieved and what I might need to tweak.
I feel most energised in Spring and Autumn, partly due to the time I’ve taken to re-set and re-focus.”
If it’s your busy season, make sure you build-in some ‘you’ time. Take a break from the desk and all things digital. If you don’t have time for a break, walk and meet!
If things are slowing down a little, why not take advantage of the brief respite and brush-up on your comms planning skills with this great advice on ‘How to write a comms plan’ from allthingsIC or read ‘Successful Employee Relations’ in time for the next Twitter #ICBookClub from CIPRInside on 6 August.
Finally, plan ahead and book yourself onto this Communication Planning workshop with the IoIC and earn 6 hours CPD.
IoIC and CIPR members can save 20% on all business business with Kogan Page
P.S. Need help with your communication plans?
I’ve been helping organisations of all shapes and sizes with communication planning for over 20 years.
Contact me to book a free 30-minute consultation.