Checklist for employee communications in a crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic is a very unusual crisis, hitting as it does almost all companies in sectors in all countries around the world at the same time. Many crises you will encounter will be specific to your own business, or its sector. Sticking to a few important rules for communicating with employees in a crisis will help them remain focussed and productive advocates.
Be proactive. Anticipate and plan for crises that your organization could encounter before they happen.
Get a team together. Identify employees who will make up the crisis management team. These are the people who will know what to do when disaster strikes.
Do not expect employees to come to you. Put in place a notification system that speedily reaches out to staff with accurate information and guidance.
Do not put up roadblocks. There is no point in trying to stop employees communicating about crises on social media. Instead, help them shape their messages by giving them correct information in a timely manner.
Act fast, but only say what you know to be true. Speed is critical when it comes to crisis communications, but it cannot be at the expense of accuracy.
Do not go silent. If your business is not yet ready to respond to an emergency, at least let staff know that you are gathering information and will follow up as soon as possible.
Test, then test again. The most well-crafted communication plan will not be very helpful if employees have no idea what it is or how to use it. At least once a year, test the process to find out from workers what it does and does not do well, and adjust accordingly.Evaluate. Assessing how things went after a crisis is as important as a pre-crisis plan. Review how the internal communication plan was executed, what succeeded and what can be improved.
Communicating the position on absence and pay due to COVID-19
Once employees return to their workplace, before a vaccine or other treatment becomes available for COVID-19, it is likely that there will be further interruptions to work in response to possible incidences of infection. You will need to communicate with your employees about how the company will handle future absences relating to COVID-19. Here are some points that your communication should look to include:
- Measures to be taken to reduce virus spread. Reiterate the official guidance on infection control – washing hands regularly using alcohol-based gel or soap and water, coughing or sneezing into a flexed elbow or tissue, which must be thrown away immediately, avoiding contact with anyone with a cough, staying six feet apart.
- Personal foreign travel. When travel resumes, communicating plans and countries to be visited. Need for employee to keep company informed on countries requiring self-isolation on return.
- Procedures for those requiring to shield/self-isolate. Importance of alerting you or a manager immediately, alert that decision will be made by company on whether home working is possible, whether paid leave can be taken, or on what basis sick pay will be paid.
- Employees potentially exposed to virus. Communicate that the company may send employees home if it is believed they have been exposed to virus, even if they are not displaying symptoms.
- Employees with symptoms of the virus. Importance of following government guidelines and keep line manager updated. Reiterate that time off will be treated as other sickness absence.
- Closure of child(ren)’s school. Reiterate that time off to make arrangements for childcare will be treated in accordance with time off for dependants, and whether it will be paid/unpaid.