Communication in an extraordinary time
Tips for mitigating the Covid-19 impact on employees
Covid-19 is everywhere, and everyone is talking about it. It is our job to make sense of it for our audiences, and to keep it real, practical, and show business risk mitigation in the process. We’ve been involved in a number of different approaches and angles, and can share these thoughts and lessons:
1. Everyone is NOT the communicator… Allow the communication professionals to coordinate and control communication
We’ve noticed a trend with our multi-national and multi-site customers in the past couple of weeks where everyone became the communicator. Global offices, head offices, executives, safety teams, risk teams, management, HR. Name any part of the business, and they
had an urgent message to get to the people. In many cases, they opted to send it directly to the store/unit/shop floor manager, whom became completely overwhelmed with messages. In many instances, the international, local and divisional messages also conflicted with one-another, or were 100% duplicated. Allow your communication professional to be the communication coordinator in crisis time. Appoint the communication professional as the go- to person for all messages, allow them to prioritise, trust them to make the right choice of channel, and don’t over communicate and create confusion. The communication professional is trained and has a crisis communication plan, and will navigate the situation by connecting the dots, crafting short, relevant messages, and ensuring what needs to be communicated is prioritised. It might not fit your personal agenda, but they will do the right thing for the business, employees and customers. Trust them, they are the communicator.
2. Brainstorm and implement really practical solutions for your employees
Most of our clients are doing a stellar job with the communication about the virus, prevention, operational updates, etc. With the National Disaster declaration, a need for practical solutions have become clear. Focus on your employees as people in a process. Schools are closed. Shops are running empty. Public transport is difficult. This will impact your business indicators such as attendance, production, client services, etc.
Put practical solutions in place to assist your employees to deal with the disruption. We promise, this will wow them, your customers will talk to about it, and will do wonders for company morale. Make it easy for your employees to support their loved ones, so that they can come to work with peace of mind, to focus on work. This is a time to show your people that you place them first, and although some of the suggestions below may seem far-fetched, if you pull together, you could easily make this happen in a limited budget, that will be much more cost effective than production/service loss.
3. Here are a few practical suggestions to assist your employees with:
Ask employees about their transport challenges
If possible, connect them to form private lift clubs rather than relying on public transport. If you can, hire a private transport company in the short term, or arrange discount uber vouchers. Any assistance in this regard will be a major item.
Organise staff that live in close proximity into mom-clubs, so they can map their child care provision networks – gogo’s, sisters, brothers, and take turns, maybe have 3 families on a rotation schedule, where two care-givers watch the kids on a day, and every care giver is off every third day.
Assistance with food for kids
Many kids only eat one meal a day, at school. Parents often leave home in the dark and return in the dark, and don’t spend time cooking for their families. They eat one meal at work, kids eat one meal at school (as our Poverty Stoplight data indicate in many instances). With schools closed, making meal vouchers or pre-packed meals available, with nutritious, non-perishable foods, will be very valuable to parents. Mobilise community volunteers to pack these, or use your employees or a delivery service. Focus on high- protein source foods, that can be supplemented with pap, marog and/or bread that are available in most homes.
These parcels can include:
- Peanut butter and/or jam
- Baked beans
- Melrose cheese
- Soy mince
- High protein cereal i.e. future life
Plan your care-giver schedule for home
One of our very successful elements in the Abashintshi programme was implementing a structured holiday programme. This is called for in your communities, and we will offer advice to put it together and share how to’s. Consider making branded items such as balls, skipping ropes, prevention colour in pictures, math sheets, crayons, salt clay packs, etc. available. Lists of activities that kids can do at home, with minimal cost, using items available at home, will be made available by our DevCom educational specialist later this week, and include:
- Colour in pictures
- Experiments with home items
- Outdoor activities for big motor skill development
- Cut and paste from magazines
Make general safety guides and routines for home care available, making it easy for the home-carers to implement a plan of action almost similar to the routine a child would have in a nursery school.
Our in-area facilitators are available to compile these packs for you and assist with distribution, and can do short video sessions to empower your home-carers with some guidelines. Let us know how we can support.
At the very least, have the conversations about the impact, acknowledge it, and allow staff to come up with their own solutions.
4. Stay focused on business within the required guidelines
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Continue with as many business activities as possible. Focus on how you will get your same work-programme done, but within the guidelines for COVID-19. Become creative in execution and implementation, rather than just cancelling everything.
With events being cancelled, you will have time on hand to spend on other activities you don’t usually get to in this time of year (or any time of year!). Use the time for strategic planning, evaluating your work-programme, etc.
For more information on the the Corona Covid-19 virus and how to prevent it please visit the World Health Organization website https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019