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on March 17, 2020 Internal Communications

9 Steps to Effective Communications during the COVID-19 Outbreak

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Download our free COVID-19 Return to Work Playbook for communications strategies and tips curated from industry professionals.

COVID-19 is slowly but surely affecting everyone in some way. As anxieties about work, money, health, and more skyrocket, there has never been a more vital time to effectively communicate with your employees. Employees are relying on their employers to know the facts, how they will be covered in the crisis, what’s at jeopardy, and more. Although much is still unknown about the virus, there is no time for delay in communication. 

Because of this, we have included some recommendations on how to ensure you communicate effectively with your employees regarding COVID-19. For more detailed recommendations and facts, frequently check the CDC’s page on Business Guidance.  

1. Actively encourage sick employees to stay home

This is arguably the most important thing to include in your communications. Make sure it is very, very clear that sick employees stay home from work. Consider adapting your sick-leave, medical, and remote-work policies and communicate these policy changes as well.  

  1. 2. Advise against travel

If your work requires employees to travel, it should be pretty obvious at this point that travel plans should be canceled or rescheduled. Ensure your employees understand this - as well as avoid any travel, according to the CDC.

3. Make updates frequent

As news updates are changing everyday, it’s important to constantly update your employees as well. As federal, state, and local governments give out new updates and policy changes, establish what those changes mean for your company and quickly update your employees. The sooner and more frequent you communicate, the less your employees will stress or believe false information. 

4. Include only vetted sources and facts

We recommend only including facts directly from the CDC or OSHA websites. Sending out information from other sources is not only unreliable, it can perpetrate panic and undesirable reactions. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to communicate only real facts.

5. Have centralized place for communications

Because info regarding COVID-19 is so essential, employees should be able to easily access the information. We recommend utilizing some sort of “hub”, or company app that employees can easily find to see company updates. 

6. Be honest

Although it may be intriguing to calm your employees nerves with lofty promises - like “everyone’s jobs will be totally fine”, “this will all blow over soon”, etc. It’s vital for employers to be completely honest in their communications. So much is unknown about the virus and how it will affect society, so rather than making promises, employers should be as honest and transparent as possible. If you don’t know something, don’t pretend you do. 

7. If moving remote, keep employees engaged

If your company is fortunate enough to be able to operate remotely, we recommend doing so as soon as possible. With this, though, presents many new challenges. Take steps to ensure your employees stay engaged and productive while remote.

8. Be sensitive to everyone's situation

It is a fragile time for everyone, no matter where people are. When creating your communications, ensure you are being considerate of individuals’ situations. This means being cautious about any tones of discrimination in your communications, and that you don’t perpetrate any stigmas. Many employees have loved ones affected, or could be in a very different situation than you - try be flexible with them and help them to understand that you value their wellbeing. 

9. Stay positive

It’s a scary, unknown time for all of us, but if one thing is certain it’s that we must remain positive and hopeful. It will not benefit anyone to inflict stress, fear, or negativity in your communications. As long as it is true, add some positivity on top of these serious conversations. Relay an optimistic tone or elements that will brighten peoples’ day, such as memes and funny videos. With all of the serious and stress-invoking information bombarding your employees, provide some light and send a message of hope. 

Sydnie Fultz

Creative Content Manager

Curated client stories, HR executive input and consultant research on COVID-19 Return to Work Communication Strategies: