Best Practices for Internal Communication During a Crisis
Internal communication needs to be steadfast and strong for companies to work effectively. And when a crisis strikes, letting staff know what is happening around the world and how it will be affecting them in the workplace needs to be a priority.
In this blog, we outline four best practices for communicating internally during a crisis to ensure your company continues to function optimally.
1. Spread Awareness
The current pandemic is constantly evolving, and health officials are offering new information on a near-constant basis. But that doesn’t mean your employees are always tuned in to what’s going on.
As more information is released, companies need to reiterate and react to updates so that their employees are well-informed.
Still, it is up to companies to ensure that their employees are given the most accurate information. This can be done in a number of ways, including weekly updates from the c-suite or HR, all-hands meetings, anonymous question services, coronavirus awareness resources, and more.
Tell your staff what has been announced about how the virus is being transmitted, what protective measures they can take to keep safe, and what exactly ‘social distancing’ means.
When employees have questions about the crisis, companies should attempt to answer them according to the facts available. If you don’t have an answer, tell your staff that—don’t just guess.
When you source data and facts, check where it is coming from—don’t glean information from opinion pieces or social media. Source information from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before sharing it with anyone else.
2. Be Flexible and Understanding
Internal communication follows its own flow and rhythm, but during a time of crisis—especially one as all-encompassing as the one we are facing now—there needs to be some additional thought put into the tone of messages.
Many employees are facing harsh situations. Some may have been directly affected by the virus; others might not be handling isolation well. There are also numerous people who are struggling to handle working with homeschooling and taking care of the home.
This is an anxiety-inducing situation for everyone, and the impact on mental health cannot be downplayed.
Internal communications must acknowledge the struggles of employees—share the facts but prioritize employees’ mental and physical health instead of pushing deadlines and productivity. Promote these in your remote work policy so that employees understand that they can adopt a flexible schedule, for instance, if they need to in order to take care of their children.
3. Lead by Example
Leaders of organizations need to be at the forefront of crisis communications. They should be sending regular emails or messages on team chats.
Do not leave it up to other staff members—while managers can share their own updates with their team, it is important for employees to know that their leaders are around. Even if there isn’t any real update, message your staff regardless to avoid creating a vacuum for people to fill in with incorrect data or concerns.
4. Be Open to Feedback
This pandemic is unprecedented and unpredictable; information is changing regularly, shaping how companies and their employees function.
While it is important for leaders and executives to inform employees of new information as and when it comes in, internal communication must not be one-sided.
Check-in with employees regularly and ask them for their feedback via chat tools.
Ask them about their worries and mental health: how are they feeling? Do they have any concerns about the crisis? What clarifications do they require? Ask them about their working conditions: do they have what they need to continue functioning as normal? Do they need flexibility in their working hours?
If these interactions can be conducted over video calls, even better. Seeing others makes you feel more connected, and it is easier to understand reactions face-to-face than over text.
The global crisis we are experiencing now has changed many aspects of life, including the way companies communicate internally.
It is essential to make communication a priority during a crisis—letting employees know what the situation is and how it impacts the company, as well as the way they work.
Accept that you can’t know everything, and that the situation is continually changing. As long as you source your data and suggestions, you will be fine. The important thing is to make sure employees know that their company is there for them, now and in the future.
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