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Employees first: Communications and COVID-19

April 16, 2020 By    

Over the last several weeks, our lives have changed dramatically. Chances are that your business is now considered essential, and because of that designation, you have an obligation to your employees, customers and community to continue operating.

Amanda Bacon photo

Amanda Bacon

Timely and transparent communications are vital right now. In priority order, your focus should be employees, customers and then your community.

Our focus in this article is on employees because they are the lifeblood of your business and the ones on the front lines. Healthy, happy and well-informed employees will take the best care of your customers during this critical time.

Communicate often and honestly

Your employees are the reason you have customers, and your leadership right now is key to withstanding this storm.

They need regular, clear and transparent communication, which could mean daily from you. Your team is concerned about its jobs and families more than any other time in recent history. Communications do not have to be long and drawn out, but rather short and concise. Telling employees what you know and answering their questions is key to keeping them focused on your customers.

Here’s a list to consider sharing with your employees in digestible amounts:

COVID-19 specific

  • Remind your employees of your sick policy and potential changes due to the pandemic.
  • Share how you will manage employees who contact COVID-19 and how you will assist any employees who believe they are at high risk. Remind everyone about who they should speak to in your company about these things, such as their manager or human resources.
  • Discuss your plan for employees who must stay home to care for children or loved ones.
  • Share the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines you are following, such as moving work areas 6 ft. apart, face mask requirements or not, and having conference calls instead of in-person meetings, etc.
  • Remind employees of your employee assistance program.
  • Notify employees to look out for phone and email scammers (i.e., “Click here to buy hand sanitizer”).

Layoffs/furloughs

  • If you have layoffs, creating the right talking points for those impacted is important, but what you communicate to the individuals who still have jobs is even more vital.
  • Clearly explain what layoffs mean, who they impact today and who may be impacted in the future. Let your team know that layoffs are painful for everyone and they result from current events, not from the health of the company.
  • You want to avoid paranoid employees. They will be unproductive and can create issues with their peers and customers. Being clear, honest and sympathetic will help.
  • Consistently communicate what’s coming, even if you don’t have all of the answers. Share when you expect to know, and be authentic with your responses.
  • Be yourself. Use “your voice” so they hear it from “the top” in the way they are accustomed.

Remote workers

You may have employees who can work remotely, which could be a new concept. A general inclination toward remote working may be: “Are my employees actually working?”

The answer is absolutely, yes. How they are working is different; their rhythms will be different for any number of reasons, such as their kids are home or they are adapting to new IT systems, but they are working.

Pro tip: Instead of “checking up” to see if they are working (which is determinable based on deliverables), “check in” to see how they are doing. Everyone’s circumstance is different, and employers need to be empathic and trust their employees.

As an employer, you have an obligation not to let employees become resentful that certain jobs can be done from home and others can’t. Remind people that these are unprecedented times and you are doing your best to accommodate people and the law while maintaining social distancing and serving your customers as an essential business.

With a lack of information, your employees will fill in their own blanks, and usually that’s with the worst-case scenario, which will lead to fear and unproductive employees.

Communication is for everyone, not for groups of individuals. Being transparent to everyone and thanking all of your employees regularly will be essential to helping you keep your business running.


Amanda Bacon is the founder of Savvi Strategies, a consulting firm helping small and middle market businesses improve their marketing and public relations activities, and showing them how to transform their company culture into a strong, competitive advantage.

This article is tagged with , , , and posted in Blue Flame Blog, COVID-19

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