Among all the questions and rumors surrounding COVID-19, there’s one thing we can be certain about: it is impacting people’s daily lives, including work.
Between work from home policies, restricted travel, and supply chain issues, the Coronavirus outbreak has created a lot of issues in the workplace that employers have never had to deal with before. And while there may not be a way to completely eradicate the ill effects of this pandemic just yet, one thing is for certain -- communication is more important now than ever.
Your employees are looking to you as a source of guidance as to how they should carry out their work responsibilities while staying safe. Your clients and suppliers also need to know if, and how, their business relationship with you will shift over the coming weeks.
Here are some tips to help you communicate with your staff, your clients, and anyone else you may need to contact during this straining time:
Preach prevention. By now your employees should understand the importance of hand washing and proper sanitation, but it is always helpful to share prevention tips and be proactive. If possible, provide your employees with hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes, tissues, or other items that can stop the spread of germs. If that’s not possible given current supply issues, then provide them with as much information as you can about how to limit exposure or spreading germs. One source you can share is the CDC’s page on How to Protect Yourself.
Form a COVID-19 task force. Having a dedicated team to monitor and report updates on the condition will streamline the process of creating and distributing communication. Include representatives from all your key functions and determine a set decision-making structure and communication protocol. This way, your employees and stakeholders have a single trusted source for information and questions.
Monitor communications from trusted sources. Your task force should be monitoring news sources for updates at least a few times a day for developments. Be sure to educate your team on the dangers of false information surrounding this issue. Be sure to only trust sources like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Task force members should immediately alert the rest of the task force about any travel advisories, bans, or quarantine updates they hear about.
Develop (multiple) contingency plans. You’ll want to be prepared for any possible situation so you can have communication created and ready to be sent out to those who need it. Prioritize the steps that need to be taken for a number of possible situations, including (but not limited to):
- If there is a confirmed case near your location
- If there is a confirmed case among employees
- If key suppliers shut down
For each scenario, determine who is authorized to make prompt decisions, what will be communicated to involved parties, and the method of communication that will be used.
Have a set plan to share with employees and stakeholders. Things can change very quickly during this time. If there is a confirmed case within your organization, or if the spread continues to accelerate, you’ll need to communicate quickly. Have your communication typed up and ready to go at a moment’s notice. These communications should include:
- An HR policy for mandatory work from home
- Any changes to paid time off policies
- Any changes to business operations that could impact stakeholders or clients
- Emergency contact protocol
- A list of legitimate resources for COVID-19 updates
Communicate often. In a situation like this, it’s almost impossible to overcommunicate. Since the situation has changed so fast in just a matter of days, it’s encouraged to send as many updates as necessary to keep your staff and clients informed. This will also alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty your staff and clients are feeling so they can focus on doing their jobs to the best of their abilities.
Put health first. And make sure your employees and clients do the same. Make sure your employees know that their health is your first priority, and encourage them to keep the lines of communication open on their ends too. Encourage employees to err on the side of caution and put health before work.
While there’s still a lot of uncertainty around COVID-19, keeping open lines of communication with staff and clients is going to be the best way to maintain positive relationships and business continuity during these trying times.