Internal communications during the coronavirus crisis
The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented crisis requiring us all to make huge changes to our lives. Many of us are now working from home, having to conduct all of our business by email, phone or web conference. Whilst trying to contend with these new arrangements, we are juggling childcare, worrying about friends and family and wondering what the financial impact on us could be.
Now more than ever, employers need to think about the wellbeing of their staff and the role internal communications has to play. Poor or unclear internal communications can have hugely negative implications for an already anxious workforce but a well-executed internal communications strategy can have a positive impact, providing reassurance, helping employees to better manage isolation from colleagues and bringing people together to support each other and share experiences.
This isn’t easy. It is a complex and rapidly changing situation with fresh advice coming from government on a daily basis. Here are some key considerations:
- Keep internal communications regular: even if you have nothing new to say. In a rapidly changing situation that may mean a daily update is necessary. By communicating often you will avoid a vacuum and prevent rumours and misinformation from circulating.
- Be consistent: make sure all parts of the business are saying the same thing. Pick a single source of information, be it a regular email or an internet update so that everyone knows where and when information will be available.
- Be mindful of the tone of your communications: People are sensitive right now so make sure anything you put out is triple checked by others who may bring different viewpoints and experiences.
- Be clear and unambiguous: Don’t leave things open to interpretation and be as clear as you can in the messages you are putting out. People need certainty where possible, even if the news is hard to hear. None of us know what the next few months hold so be honest with people about that.
- Plan future communications where possible: Consider the likely implications for your business over the coming months and plan your internal communications strategy accordingly. Anticipate questions you are likely to be asked and prepare in advance. It’s better to anticipate potential outcomes and work up comms beforehand rather than finding yourself on the back foot.
- Be creative: In a crisis situation internal communications would usually involve some face to face briefings from senior staff. That is not an option in the unique circumstances we face so look at alternatives that bring a human voice into people’s homes. Use zoom conferences, Skype or make short films employees can watch. Encourage people to call each other rather than rely on email. We are all going through the same thing so even senior figures should feel able to share their personal experiences.
- Refer to reputable sources: With so much misinformation it is important to direct people to official advice on the coronavirus so link to official government sources, NHS advice or guidance from professional bodies such as the SRA or Bar Council.
Employees will appreciate working within a business that appears professional and in control of its response to events. Whilst it may not always be possible to assuage everyone’s anxieties when there are so many unknowns, providing some level of certainty will be reassuring. Bringing everyone in your organisation together to support each other will help people to work through the coming months.
How you communicate to your workforce at this crucial time will have implications both for the immediate situation but also for how your staff view your business once normality returns. Those who have made it clear that employee wellbeing is central to their business, have communicated clearly and confidently without appearing behind the curve will come out of the crisis with loyal staff and a stronger reputation as a result.