Communication during a National Lockdown
by Neil Conchie, on Jan 6, 2021 12:41:10 PM
Following the announcement by Boris Johnson on Monday we head into another period of National Lockdown to try and slow the spread of the new Coronavirus variant currently circulating in the United Kingdom.
Whilst this latest guidance was not entirely unexpected it can have a significant impact on business communication and continuity, so how do you communicate and ensure continuity with a remote or scattered workforce at short notice?
Although crises come in different forms and intensities one thing which is the same in all situations is that effective communication can help boost morale and improve productivity to help you ensure business continuity.
Review your initial Coronavirus Response and update your Pandemic Plan
Look back to your initial response to the Coronavirus crisis, what worked and what didn’t? This can help you to determine your plan of action for this latest National lockdown. Do you need a Pandemic Plan template? You can grab ours for free here.
Create a centralised Coronavirus communication team
Governments and official bodies all over the world are doing this, and it makes sense for companies to do it too. This means that all employees and stakeholders know where to get the most up-to-date information that is accurate. Ideally this team should be small and made up of only five to seven people and should include only the minimum of people needed to make it work; a member of the leadership team, someone who looks after corporate communications under normal circumstances, a HR executive and an expert in the area of Coronavirus and current guidance, if you have one. Keeping your team small means that you can get decisions made quickly and effectively, and by ensuring a member of the leadership team is included you can speed up the process by having someone able to sign-off on communications as part of the team.
This team should always be the main source of information about the crisis whilst monitoring the situation as it evolves. They are responsible for providing regular updates in a way which is as transparent as possible, acknowledging what they do and don’t know and referencing important source information in communications in a way which is easily digestible to the entire team. As the government tends to operate a day-to-day approach to the current Coronavirus crisis it could be that guidance changes quickly, and it is the responsibility of this team to communicate this to the wider team so that they know how this affects them.
Communicate with your team
Employees are the most important part of your business and if they aren’t informed or don’t understand what’s going on then your productivity and business continuity is likely to suffer. In a study by Harvard Business Review following the 9/11 crisis many employees described how important it was to them to hear from a leader of their company and the current Coronavirus crisis is no different. Regardless of whether your business operates as normal or some of your team are moved onto a furlough scheme, communication is key for all of your employees.
Some best practices for communication are to post information in a highly visible location, during ‘normal’ times this might be in a physical location but whilst many offices and premises are closed, do you have an online location such as an intranet board or other communication tool? The other big consideration here is how will staff see these notices?
You could of course use email, but not all staff might have access to their emails straight away as new protocols are put into place and equipment distributed to allow for remote working. As part of the communications it is important to include information such as how decisions were made and to provide information in a timely way. We would also recommend communicating no less than every day with your employees to ensure they feel safe, supported and informed whilst ensuring that all communications are sent with the perspective of the target audience at the forefront.
When sending communications it is worth remembering to focus on ‘dos’ rather that ‘don’ts’ as these give a more positive overall message, and don’t be afraid to repeat key information, some studies have found that audiences will need to hear health-related messages up to 21 times to maximise the perception of that risk. You should also focus on the facts rather than sugar coating any messaging, this may include bad news which might be painful to some employees, but people would prefer to hear the truth, and demonstrating vulnerability has been well-documented previously to build trust within teams.
Consider two-way communication
Two-way communication can help with morale where your employees feel they are supported by their leadership team and help to foster a sense of community. Part of your Coronavirus communication strategy could include a daily check-in to ensure that your employees are not struggling with isolation or mental health concerns, or perhaps have tested positive and are struggling to get their essentials. Giving them the option to reply to a communication stating that they need support and would appreciate someone reaching out could make all the difference to morale and long-term productivity and business continuity. Do you have a solution that allows for two-way communication in a quick and easy way without anyone being overwhelmed by emails?