Communicating with Employees and Expats during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Panicked shoppers, remote workers and lockdowns all over the globe- this is the new normal now.
With coronavirus cases surging uncontrollably, many businesses have been forced to shut down leaving thousands of people out of work and wondering how they will weather this unexpected crisis and how long it will last.
If you run a business or hold a leadership position, here are some ways to communicate with your employees and expats during the covid-19 outbreak:
1. Step up your internal communication initiatives through Slack, Zoom, Google Hangouts Chat etc
Why is this important? Misinformation and panic have been thriving everywhere since the beginning of this outbreak. People are thoughtlessly sharing and promoting fake cures, conspiracy theories, fear of foreigners and every horrible thing imaginable.
To counter this reckless dissemination of false information, step up your internal communication initiatives during the Covid-19 outbreak. Create a dedicated communication channel to regularly share coronavirus-related updates especially about the cities where your company operates.
Use a chat channel instead of emails as it is more collaborative and allows people to comment and raise questions in real-time.
2. Reiterate the importance of following lockdown protocols
Difficult times bring out the best in some people and the worst in others. Proactively remind your employees including expats that it is dangerous and irresponsible to take this pandemic lightly.
Many people are still hitting the beaches and picnicking in parks with absolutely no regard for the wellbeing of others.
Covid-19 is not like the flu or the common cold. It is far more contagious and lethal especially for the elderly and people with preexisting health conditions. Asymptomatic people can still transmit the virus to others. Too many people falling ill at the same time can overwhelm even the best of healthcare systems.
If a government has decided to place a city, country or even continent on lockdown, they have not made this decision in haste. They have done so after careful consultation with leading scientists and doctors about the pros and cons of a full lockdown. Follow lockdown protocols:
- Go out as little as possible and only for groceries and medicines
- Try indoor exercises instead of running, jogging or walking outside
- Do not organise house parties
- Do not gather in groups
3. Use an optimistic tone in your internal communications and interactions
Yes, times are difficult and it is important for everyone to take this crisis seriously. On the other hand, you can make this crisis far more palatable for your employees by using an optimistic and positive tone in your messages.
Consider sharing inspirational stories of people who survived Covid-19 instead of talking only about the spread and fatalities. Talk about people who are coming together to help the vulnerable and the elderly do their grocery shopping and pharmacy visits. Encourage people to be helpful and treat others with kindness.
4. Ask employees to focus on what they can control
We must always focus on what we can control. Your employees can influence the outcome of this covid-19 crisis even if they can’t control it.
They can’t stop the pandemic on their own but they can control their personal impact on the spread through strict social distancing as well as following good hygiene practices and lockdown protocols.
5. Communicate your sickness and leave policy
Remember that there is a possibility that one of your employees or their family members may become infected. Have a sickness policy in place even for employees who need to care for their family members as this takes the burden off employees to a large extent and helps them feel supported and at ease.
6. Ask employees to extend their trips if they’re already abroad
Travelling is extremely risky at the moment not to mention difficult. Many countries are on total lockdown and have banned both domestic and international travel.
If any of your employees are already abroad, request them to extend their trip. Book them a suitable furnished rental where they can remain safe and soldier through the quarantine.
7. Encourage employees to share their fears and frustrations
As the world moves towards a recession, there is heightened fear among employees about potential layoffs.
Although layoffs may be beyond your control, have regular check-ins with your employees to allay their fears and provide reassurance whenever possible. Cultivate a safe work atmosphere where they can share their concerns without being ridiculed.
This is crucial for employee morale. Employees are more productive when they’re not constantly anxious and insecure about their future.
By establishing a healthy work environment, you can keep your employees motivated even during these tough times. Foster and encourage a sense of community, belonging and collective responsibility to face the crisis as a team.