The coronavirus, a disease that only a few days ago we saw as something distant and that affected other people, has hit us hard and is here, it seems, to stay. For any company, regardless of its size and activity, trying to plan around the new virus is a real challenge even for those with the best crisis plans. We are facing a dynamic situation that is changing at times. And although the main objective now is to reduce the spread of the virus and protect the health of people, especially the most vulnerable, there are a number of economic effects that must also be taken into account.
At present, one of the main audiences that companies have to address are their employees, and at this point coordination between the communication teams, the human resources department and the IT area is essential. If employees feel that they are being informed and reassured, they will be able to understand the role they have to play in this situation and it will be easier for them to act appropriately.
Before you start communicating, it is a good idea to take time to think about all the possible questions that the different professionals in the organization may have. Given the unstable situation, the questions may also change, but many of them can be anticipated. Having an argument prepared in advance will make the task of dealing with communications much easier and will favour speed, also helping to maintain a climate of peace. This argument can even be made public and made available to anyone who wants to consult it. In addition, it can be completed with other practical information, such as, for example, those related to hand washing, symptoms, how to live with an infected person or what to do if you think you have been infected with the coronavirus. All this content can be collected on the corporate website, on the intranet or even shared on different social networks or sent via Whatsapp. Tools such as video or computer graphics, as well as other common documents and media, can help in this regard. What kind of questions should be part of the Q&A? What happens if a case is confirmed and the affected employee has been in the workplace? What should a person who feels unwell in the workplace do? What should a person who has recently traveled to a risk area do? Should they continue to travel for work? Are there any restrictions on employee travel?What happens if an employee decides to self-isolate? What is the company’s policy on organizing and/or attending industry events? What happens to those who cannot come to the workplace because their children’s schools have closed? What happens if an employee is on medical leave? Is there special treatment for those with weak immune systems? Is there a possibility that they cannot come to the workplace temporarily? Where can I get up-to-date information?
In each case it is necessary to analyse which channels are the most effective or preferred by employees because the one or those selected must become the company’s official source of information to respond to the coronavirus: whether it is e-mail, intranet or a shared document on a server, employees must know where to go to find correct and updated information quickly and effectively. This communication clearly contributes to staff peace of mind, as it not only informs them almost in real time, but also provides them with continuous guidance and guides them through the next steps.
As for the pace of updates, a daily update is recommended and should be completed, whenever necessary, with additional information shared in real time. In short, it should be frequent, consistent and clear communication. Consistency is also recommended. In other words, if we commit ourselves to daily communication, it must be done with respect to this frequency. If there are no major developments, one can always resort to remembering the good advice that is being given to the population from international bodies such as the WHO or, in the case of Spain, from the Ministry of Health.
As far as travel and events are concerned, both are being affected by limitations and cancellations and, in that sense, policies will differ from one company to another, but in any case we are facing a magnificent opportunity to try new ways of working, to change our habits and to test the IT department and digital alternatives, maximizing the use of available technologies. We must communicate quickly, clearly and always responsibly, minimizing the negative impact of an unprecedented health emergency.
Valvanuz Serna Ruiz
Managing Partner at Proa Comunicación