In Canada, the public risk associated with COVID-19 was still considered low just a few days ago. But as we publish this article, the world seems to be trapped in a paradoxical state: simultaneously in a frenzy and put on hold.
Dealing with the consequences of the outbreak can be overwhelming as it has an impact on many aspects of our lives. And workplaces, where the majority of us spend most of our time, are no exception. For many organizations, a meaningful experiment is taking place. One that will teach them how well they perform in such challenging times.
Many questions and concerns are being raised in the face of uncertainty. Especially in a day and age when news, whether it’s legitimate or not, is transmitted around the globe in just a few seconds through social media. So, employers, it’s important now more than ever to remember your role and lead by example.
Even if it seems almost impossible to have a long-term strategy, some things hold true no matter what: when a crisis hits, it’s how you respond to it that can make or break your organization – and your reputation. Remember: your Employer Brand is how you market your company to job seekers as well as internal employees. Employer Branding should be leveraged to have a voice that is reassuring in this very peculiar context. It’s in your best interest to be transparent with employees and candidates about the measures you are taking that will affect their lives.
If you haven’t already, the first thing you want to do is to keep your people updated.
COVID-19 has been top of mind for many Canadians for a while now. The conversations might have started at the water cooler a few weeks ago and they’re still going on in your company’s group chat. Now is definitely not the time to “say nothing and make no comment”. Your goal is to become your employees’ trusted voice in this crisis.
Stay up to date. Educate. Inform. Listen. Reassure.
Yes, employers should provide their employees with information about the virus, but the last thing you want to do is to come off as overly concerned or worried. Limit your communication to information and recommendations from official sources, and explain what it means for your organization and your people.
Prevent the spreading of fake news and fear. Correct misinformation about how the virus spreads and encourage your people to speak up if they feel the need. It’s important to practice and encourage empathy in times like these, as some people might react better than others to stress and changes.
Don’t leave candidates aside.
It won’t cost you to share a message on social media to keep candidates in the loop. For example, explain how job fairs will be replaced with virtual ones, or how interviews will be conducted through video calls. Communicate about your efforts to support the pandemic contingency plan and let people know that you care about protecting your employees and future employees. In other words, show that you care and prove it. Your Employer Brand will reward you a hundredfold.
Be a thoughtful leader, committed to finding solutions to the challenges that lie ahead.
The Foundry, like many other companies, has already put preventative measures in place. Whether it’s implementing a travel restriction policy, enforcing a 14-day self-quarantine for employees returning to Canada, or encouraging people to work from home when possible. It’s every employer’s responsibility to put safety first and help limit the potential exposure of their workforce (and their loved ones) to COVID-19.
Social distancing doesn’t mean mentally isolating.
For many, the implementation of remote work is a welcome change and some people react like kids on a snow day. But, one thing is for sure, the context is not ideal and more extroverted people who love being in the office might be eager to see their coworkers and meet face-to-face with customers again.
Luckily, there are a few things that can help reduce the feeling of isolation and maintain or create a sense of belonging while we’re all working from home. For example employers and managers can set up regular informal check-ins with their teammates – or provide a discussion space where everyone can share through instant messaging on platforms like Slack or Hangout. Whatever you opt for, use an instant messaging tool that is user friendly and that everybody likes. This way, the adoption will be easy.
Get “face-to-face” time.
At the beginning of the week, schedule a virtual team meeting that recaps the objectives for the next few days and your set expectations. For example, you can tell your staff that you expect them to be available online by chat, from 10am to 4pm and that the rest is flexible. This way, everybody knows how to make a win of this situation. Always prefer video conferences to faceless calls as it helps creating livelier interactions. It’s time to leverage the power of video and how it can transform interactions.
Go day by day.
Everyone’s life is disrupted right now. That’s something we all have in common. This unprecedented time is a challenge but it can also be a catalyst for reinforced team spirit and positive change. It is important for employers to actively support their employees by remaining transparent and reassuring.
Overall, current events show just how crucial it is for employers to be prepared for the various workplace issues that are linked to a large-scale threat to health or stability as a whole. If you are able to demonstrate leadership and commitment to everyone’s safety and best interest, sprinkling a little human connection here and there, then you have all it takes to control the magnitude of the crisis and its impact on your organization and workforce.
Stay safe. Clean hands. Open minds.