The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has dramatically changed the way of life for your employees in recent weeks. As business owners, this virus has likely changed your daily operations in some form or another.

Crisis communications is paramount for you to maintain with your employees. At times like this, fear can be elevated and can ultimately become harmful to your business operations. Here are some recommendations in relation to communicating with employees during a crisis.

Communicate Often

Rumors can be detrimental to your company’s overall morale and ultimately can affect your bottom line. Rumors often start when there is a void of communication or silence from upper management. Squelch unwarranted rumors with frequently delivered messages.

Studies show that employees trust their direct supervisor or manager more so than anyone else in the company. As a supervisor or manager, your employees are looking to you to deliver information. They trust you to have their interest in mind and want to know what steps they should be taking to support their own families as well as the company.

If you oversee supervisors and managers, then it is important for you to have frequent meetings with them and encourage them to communicate often with their own employees. This chain of communications works to keep moral high because, at the end of the day, employees feel as though they are in the loop.

Here are some ideas on ways to communicate:

  • Host employee meetings once a week, in which everyone gathers together to hear the latest update. Allow for a question and answer session so that there is dialog.
  • If your company is small enough, offer individual meetings once a week so that employees can express personal concerns as well as hear the latest company updates.
  • Utilize an employee newsletter. Post this newsletter on bulletin boards and/or place copies on break room tables. Stuff the newsletter in paycheck envelops.

Stay Calm

It is equally important, when delivering messages, to remain calm. Your employees will pick up on your demeanor. You are the leader of the company and as such, employees will be watching you closely to see how you are handling events.

Studies show that body language and nonverbal communication matters. When conversing, people are not only listening to what is being said and the tone and inflection in voice, they are also watching posture, hand motions, facial expressions and much more. Stay calm and your employees will stay calm.

Here are some tips on keeping calm:

  • Eat healthy and exercise. This will assist your body in coping with stress.
  • Have a close comrade who is not within your company (such as a spouse, a mentor, a friend or family member) who you can talk to behind private doors about your own personal concerns. Having someone to talk to can help so that you aren’t reacting when you are talking about hard topics to employees.
  • Practice presenting your update first. This means knowing what you are going to say before saying it. This will help prevent you from speaking off the cuff and out of turn. When practicing, you can practice your demeanor.

What You Say Matters

Not only should you communicate often and stay calm, but you should also be open, honest and transparent in the message that you deliver.

Stick to the facts.
As it relates to the Coronavirus, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a tremendously resourceful website in which the latest information is consistently being updated. Provide employees with facts about the coronavirus and ways they can assist in keeping the company a safe place to work.

Say what matters.
Your employees are not only concerned with their health and the health of their families – they are also concerned with the health of your company. Company updates should include information about business performance. Be open and honest. If times are bad, don’t hesitate to say so and plan to let your employees know what steps are you are taking to monitor and rectify the situation. If you have a plan for the future, let the employees know. Keep an honest and open line of communication.

Create a Comfortable Environment

In the case of the Coronavirus, workplace cleanliness also can help to calm anxiety among employees.

Facility Executive Magazine states that keeping a work environment clean offers several benefits, including the prevention of germs and illness, reducing stress and anxiety and decreasing the risk of accidents and injuries.

Consider bringing in a cleaning service to clean and disinfect surfaces and workspaces, including office areas, conference rooms, tabletops, phones and keyboards and more. Make sure that you are stocked with cleaning supplies, hand soap, paper towels, toilet paper and more. Remind employees to help keep their areas clean by adding signs, providing them access to supplies and asking for their support in cleaning up after themselves.

Hold your workplace to a high standard of hygiene to assist in creating a positive work environment. This not only helps prevent the spread of illnesses but can have a positive impact on employee health and safety, productivity and satisfaction.

Remember that your employees are intelligent, intuitive people who care deeply about your company. Be sure to keep them in the loop with frequent communication. As a supervisor or manager, your demeanor matters, as does what you say and the office environment that you provide. As the leader of the company, it is important that you communicate often during times of crisis.

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