As the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown nears the end of its first week, businesses across the country have had to review the way that they communicate with their employees. With the diminished in-person contact that employers now have with their workforce, it is vital to have a system in place that ensures staff are equipped with the right information in order to stay safe, remain engaged with their companies, and be prepared for work to resume.
“To keep employees invested, companies should demonstrate the lengths that they are going to, to put their people first. Our advice is that businesses mirror the restrictions set out by the government. Where organisations cannot make assurances concerning the future of the company, they should at least commit to open and transparent communication, keeping all employees in-the-know.”
Kappers says that having an effective internal communications strategy is especially important to ensure that employees with limited access to “traditional” forms of office communication like email are kept informed. “Misinformation is rife at this point in time, so it is vital to provide employees with a single source of information collated from trusted sources such as the WHO. Making sure that all employees have access to accurate information builds trust, minimises their anxiety and ensures that they can make informed decisions when necessary.”
It is vital to communicate clear guidelines to employees who are working from home, so that they can understand what is expected of them during lockdown. “Provision needs to be made for digital mobile access where necessary, while regular team updates via video can be helpful to keep teams engaged and motivated. Employers could also benefit from sharing remote working best practices such as the importance of a structured day, limiting distractions and finding ways to work effectively,” he states.
According to Kappers, companies providing an essential service will also benefit from improved communication strategies during the lockdown. “Essential service workers are putting their lives - and those of their families - on the line every day by being in close proximity to scores of people. Employers need to continue to share advice concerning sanitisation and social distancing practices.”
During lockdown, issues such as transportation and function may also be unclear. “Employers should communicate regularly with workers to equip them to perform their task to the best of their ability,” he adds.
In closing, Kappers notes that the right communication plan during a crisis is invaluable in avoiding any undue panic, and can help to build a more engaged workforce in the long-run. “Even during this time when many businesses have grinded to a halt, it is critical to ensure that lines of communication between employers and staff remain open,” he concludes.