The global COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to reconsider how individuals interact and businesses operate. Though the emergency related to the virus will pass, our experiences have the potential to fundamentally transform the way we work forever.
Overnight, businesses across the nation were forced to move to work-at-home models, where possible, or quickly adapt to protect onsite workers and the public with whom they interact. We saw companies immediately institute telecommuting policies, if they didn’t already have them, and retailers, grocers and restaurants change store policies and hours of operation and move to carry-out, delivery or drive-thru distribution. Other key industries like life sciences, manufacturing and insurance also had to shift their operations rapidly to adjust their supply chains and understand new policies that impact insurance coverage.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, nearly one-quarter of the U.S. workforce was already working from home at least part time. But many businesses were not prepared for their entire workforce to go fully remote or the upheaval related to social distancing changes. As a result, they stumbled through the process.
Whether because of a national or international emergency or simply to keep up with the modern business world, organizations must be sure that their employees are constantly and fully equipped with tools and resources they can use anywhere, anytime. By offering mobile solutions, employers can effectively communicate company policies, best practices and changes and provide access to the mission-critical information, learning and training essential to performing their jobs.
Now is the time for businesses of all sizes to address the concerns of its distributed workforce. Here are five tips that can help organizations assist employees during this challenging time.
1. Emotional Response Is as Contagious as the Virus
The reaction to extreme changes trickles down from the top, so it’s critical that executives and managers maintain a sense of calm during uncertain times. Employees take emotional cues from their leaders. Through regular, relevant and reassuring communications, executives can help employees keep calm in the midst of chaos.
2. There’s No Such Thing as Overcommunicating During a Crisis
During unprecedented times, when news changes by the hour, you may be worried about overwhelming employees with a constant barrage of information. However, a special Edelman Trust Barometer report on COVID-19 states that more than half (63%) of people want daily updates from their employer, and 20% look for updates several times a day. Furthermore, the survey found that people tend to trust their employers over government websites or traditional and social media.
Be a trusted source, and stay focused with your messages. Since employees are already overwhelmed with news, sharing bite-sized information that is easy to understand is key.
3. Create a Sense of Community to Build Stronger Connections
Email alone is not sufficient for connecting with employees. Fireside video chats and weekly virtual “town halls” enable leaders to create a sense of community with a personal touch. Remote workers benefit from having richer options to communicate, such as video conferencing, where they can see visual cues as if they were interacting in person. Video helps reduce the sense of social isolation among teams and is particularly useful when employees must have detailed, complex or sensitive conversations.
4. Establish Rules of Engagement
To avoid confusion and help employees maintain as much normalcy as possible, leaders should set expectations and ground rules. Consider identifying how many times per day employees should check in with their managers and the best way to do that, whether it’s as email, phone or video conferencing. Discuss how to manage interactions with customers, since everyone is working remotely. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remind employees to take breaks or go outside for exercise and fresh air (while maintaining appropriate social distance), since doing so will help them maintain a work-life balance and reduce stress.
5. Accountability With Flexibility
While employees should know what leaders expect of them, employers also need to consider that we are navigating uncharted territory. Employees are being forced to multitask more than ever before. Not only do they have their work duties, but many have to balance them with caregiver and parental responsibilities. Employers need to be more flexible in allowing employees to choose how and when they do their work, including outside traditional business hours.
In a crisis like COVID-19, or even in normal times when your company is dealing with its own changes, it is vital that you can communicate with all of your workers instantly — even if they aren’t on site, don’t sit at a desk or don’t check their email frequently. These tips can help you reach all employees with clear, concise instructions, mission-critical updates and reassuring words to support them in a rapidly changing world.