Employees (and employers) are experiencing unprecedented levels of new stress these days. Parents are juggling working from home while supporting a family, single workers are learning to navigate an even more isolated and confusing world, and leaders are wondering how to keep everyone’s head above water. All these struggles can be somewhat placated and even ameliorated with good, clear, concise communication … but there’s a catch.

That communication now needs to reach its readers on a more personal level. Gone are the days of the cold, calculated emails that left everything to the imagination. Those no longer have the efficient impact they once served.

With sensitivities rising due to increased stress, fear and danger, bold, brash, and aggressive emails can now easily be construed as an attack on performance or personality and can ultimately undermine the productivity and morale of your team.

Instead, we are moving more toward inclusivity on every level, and that requires a personal touch when it comes to employee communication.

Here are five things to consider when developing employee communication emails.

1. Connection is key

Employee communications run the gamut — anything from a company update on COVID-19 plans to a promotion announcement to a change in procedure or upgrade to a new software. Whatever the message may be, it’s important that you quickly create a connection with your readers.

Be sure to give enough background information that it feels like you’re connected to the project or the announcement. Perhaps tie in a short personal story, or offer a tip that helped you succeed — whatever you can add that communicates your interest and your buy-in to the well-being of the company, your team and each individual on your payroll.

2. Translucency is a must

Every organization likes to tout themselves as transparent when it comes to keeping their employees informed. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case for most businesses.

When you consider transparency in communication — complete transparency — it can feel a bit daunting. “Do we really want to tell our employees everything that’s going on behind the scenes?” Absolutely not. That’s why I lean more toward encouraging a policy of translucency.

By being translucent with your communications, you show that you are willing to share a lot of information that your employees find helpful, but aren’t boring them to death with relentless messages detailing every move of your executive leadership team.

Transparent to the point of being in the know, especially in a time of such uncertainty, is comforting and will foster an environment of increased employee engagement. The key here is knowing which information to share and how (more on that in a later article).

3. Sincerity garners trust and respect

The translucency we just discussed goes a long way to garnering the kind of trust and respect you want most from your employees. By providing open communication of company goals, plans, successes and losses, you create a sense of inclusion that only helps build rapport within your team and increases employee engagement, satisfaction and retention.

But clarity means nothing if it doesn’t feel sincere. Your employees are (hopefully) hard-working, very busy diplomats for your organization. They likely don’t have time for any fake compliments or overhyped buzzwords. If you’re going to show appreciation for your employees and the work they do, make sure you mean it — because, believe it or not, people know when they’re being played or lied to.

4. Tone changes everything

With the pandemic increasing work-from-home settings, you can no longer look into someone’s office to see if their expression matches the rude email they just sent, or if they just didn’t put much effort into making it a personable email. Were they being sarcastic and playful or were they being intentionally rude? It’s hard to tell in the faceless environment we now work in.

Therefore, you must consider this when composing your employee communications, specifically email. Humor and levity are both well and good, but if sarcasm or dry humor are your style, there’s the possibility your message could be misconstrued.

I’m not saying to change your personality or your style. I’m simply suggesting you consider how difficult it is to read tone in an email and save yourself and your employees from any conflicting interpretations.

5. Brevity is your friend

Again, your employees are busy and oftentimes stretched to or past their limits regarding project bandwidth. There’s not a lot of extra time (or patience) lying around waiting for the next list of instructions to hit their inbox.

While you may believe it’s important to share a lot of details about a new project or process, long-winded emails detailing every single step in that new process can be received as intense micromanagement and met with more groans and eyerolls than agreement and excitement.

So, if you do have to send one of these emails, or create a group chat to run down new processes, be mindful in your approach. Say it in as few words as possible, and make sure to thank your team for their time, tell them what a great job they’ve done so far and remind them of the exciting goal they’re all working toward.

In closing, consider these words from Jack Welch, former CEO of GE: “It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.”

One of the best ways to keep your employees energized, engaged and truly excited about their future with your company is to make sure your communications hit on a deeper, more personal level.