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Communicating with work-from-home employees during COVID-19

Dad working from home
Written by
Braedon Clark

Braedon Clark

Written by
Emma Cochrane

Emma Cochrane

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and many organizations are now managing primarily work-from-home employees, it’s important to be prepared to communicate clearly, swiftly, and effectively.

Here are some important considerations employers should be keeping in mind, along with some tips to support employees working from home:

Be empathetic and accommodating

This situation is incredibly challenging for everyone. As an employer, you need to understand that the conference call will probably be interrupted by an angry toddler or a needy dog, and be aware of people who may be worried about aging parents, siblings who have been laid off, and friends who aren’t feeling well. Being human comes before being a business. Make sure people receive this message.

Tip: A check in with employees can go a long way. Employee surveys can be tailored specifically for health and wellness, helping you understand where leadership and internal communications need to focus. Try including questions like:

  • Is there anything we can do to make this easier for you?
  • What is working with regards to working from home?
  • What isn’t working with regards to working from home?
  • What do you miss most about working at the office?

Show your face

Social distancing can easily lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially for people who live alone. Encourage people to use videoconferencing whenever possible. There’s nothing quite like seeing another human being, even if it’s on a screen. And make sure your leadership team uses it as well. It is important for people to feel that human connection with their superiors.

Tip: Invite employees to a virtual lunch date to build virtual culture. Continue to celebrate milestones, birthdays, births, etc. and put an extra emphasis on small victories or personal moments. As a CEO or leadership team, share real moments: solicit for home lunch ideas, ask about their work playlist, ask for their secret to staying zen…

Leaders need to lead

While the situation is changing hourly, that shouldn’t stop you from using internal communication channels to reach out to employees. Now more than ever, leadership means transparency and compassion.

Tip: Send regular emails to employees from senior leadership sharing up-to-date resources and checking in on their well-being. Consider hosting a virtual office hour, so employees can ask questions directly to leadership.

Be ready for change

Employees need to know how actions by governments and their employer could impact their personal and professional lives. The news may not always be good or reassuring, but it must be shared. Do not leave people in the dark—people are nervous, it’s a reality. The most effective leaders will be timely and candid with their messaging.

Plan for the unexpected. We are dealing with an unprecedented public health emergency, and no one can predict what will happen next. Acknowledge the uncertainty in a way that reassures people that we are all feeling the same things.

Tip: The situation is evolving daily—how you communicate with your employees, customers, and communities is critical. Develop a playbook with contingency plans, and use one central place to share information. Our Corporate Communications experts can help you with this.

——— Emma Cochrane is a former Senior Consultant at NATIONAL Public Relations

——— Braedon Clark is a former Senior Consultant at NATIONAL Public Relations