COVID-19 has grabbed headlines around the world, and for good reason. As the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognizes this virus as a pandemic, it's important that employers focus on a Coronavirus prevention policy and solid line of communication with employees. The priority is, of course, wellness. But it's equally important to help employees understand the reality of the situation and stay up to date on new developments in a reasonable and calm way.
The phrase, "pandemic" has increased panic in many individuals who are painting the worst case scenario. While the spread of COVID-19 is serious, it can be met with practical protocols that both stem the rate of spread and help employees and citizens process the situation without undue stress. The following outline of steps should help your company create a reasonable communication process with employees, which allows for flexibility as the recommendations and situations in your area change.
Coronavirus Corporate Policy
This guide should be seen as a solid outline. The news on the spread of this virus will continue to change as more information develops. It's important that you reassess your policy and communication as necessary.
- Make an official statement. Your employees need to know what to expect in the coming days and weeks. Create and distribute an official statement that details what the company is currently doing in response to the Coronavirus. Some things you should cover in your statement include any restrictions, a work from home policy, a policy on limiting workdays for non-essential employees, quarantine guidelines in the event someone on your staff tests positive, and any change in regular policy based on the current virus concerns. For example, if you have staff that routinely travels, you might announce that all travel is suspended until further notice.
- Create a communication strategy. As this is an ongoing situation, it's important that you develop a reliable communication strategy so that all employees are updated effectively. This strategy might mandate regularly scheduled updates and a system for emergency information. For example, you may mandate that any emergency information is conveyed through text because people see that messaging faster than email. You should also include standard communication channels in this strategy, such as moving in-person meetings to conference call or working with online platform communication methods.
- Share insurance carrier updates with employees. If your employees are covered by healthcare plans through your company, your provider will be distributing regular updates regarding news, prevention, and wellness. While the employees will have access to these updates as members enrolled in a plan, your company should proactively share updates to make certain that all employees are aware of the current recommendations. This can be especially important if the insurance carrier is offering new services in response to the virus, such as telemedicine services.
- Proactively Share Financial Information. A major stress point for many employees is the possible financial strain that can be caused by a closure of offices or many weeks away from work. It's important that you proactively share information on sick time, paid leave, and any employee assistance programs that they may need for an extended absence.
- Create a Sense of Calm. The hysteria surrounding this virus is worsened by misinformation. In order to minimize stress and better prepare your staff in any eventuality, it's important to create a transparent environment where validated information is conveyed.
- Post and Recommend Best Practices for Wellness. Make sure to post precautions to diminish the spread of this, and any, illness. These tips include washing hands, washing surfaces, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze, and not touching your face. These and other helpful tips to keep employees healthy can be posted around the office and used in communications as a regular reminder.
- Recommend Only Credible Sources. Make sure all employees know which sources are the most credible for updates about the disease, such as the CDC and WHO websites.
- Recommend Employees Refrain from Social Media or Fact Check Posts Before Sharing. One major cause for hysteria is the wide sharing of alarmist or inaccurate news about COVID-19. Even for people who know these posts and stories are inaccurate, the hysteria surrounding these postings can be emotionally taxing. Encourage employees not to share false or unverified information and to fact check posts to help alleviate excessive alarm.
The spread of this virus into a pandemic and the need to cancel large scale events has not been convenient for anyone. Remind your staff that we are all in this together and that people complying with best practices will help to eliminate the spread of the virus in a shorter time frame.