Whether during this crisis or even in normal, stable times, when there is a lack of effective communication, employees will always fill the void. When leadership does not communicate, employees will fill this void with negativity, rumors, backbiting, and potentially harmful disinformation affecting your employees as well as your business.
During this COVID crisis, as well as when the economy is “reopened,” effective, proactive communications from leadership will be critical to maintain your operations.
Let’s face it, employees are talking about the coronavirus outbreak. Be proactive and provide them with company policy as well as questions and answers from sources such as SESCO, the CDC, and others. See SESCO’s COVID-19 toolbox for suggested communications. The goal is to prevent employees from overreacting and spreading false information and rumors. It will also prevent employees from abusing FFCRA – such as requesting child care inappropriately, staying at home or quitting while under the impression that they are going to receive lucrative unemployment benefits for four (4) months.
These communications are vital so your employees receive informative and accurate information – not only about the virus but also your organization’s expectations, efforts to maintain a clean and healthy workplace, and your efforts to ensure that your employees’ health and safety is paramount while serving the public.
There are some basics that employees should understand about the symptoms and the course of illness which should be a part of your overall communication campaign to include:
COVID-19 is not airborne. It is passed by droplets. That means when someone who is infected coughs into their hands and touches a surface, someone else can catch it by touching that surface and then touching their face. As strange as it may seem, that’s good news. It means that if people wash their hands frequently with regular soap, especially after having touched surfaces others use or shaking hands, they are much less likely to be infected.
Some people have compared COVID-19 symptoms to the flu, but that’s not completely accurate. The two (2) most common symptoms are fever and a dry cough. People with COVID-19 rarely have a sniffle. They also aren’t likely to be nauseous. What they are likely to have is bad upper respiratory problems.
It is also true that for most younger workers, the symptoms are milder and people who have it may only think they have a cold. However, older employees or anyone with a compromised immune system are much more likely to have serious symptoms that may require medical assistance.
If someone has been exposed, they are likely to have symptoms within five (5) days of exposure and can also be a carrier up to 14 days even if they are asymptomatic. This is why quarantine periods are generally (not always) 14 days long.
Employees expect accurate, authoritative and transparent information. Trying to conceal risk can potentially create more harm. Companies need communications when there are affected employees or employees’ spouses, loved ones who have been affected, where a customer was affected and comes in to your business, etc. All of these questions and issues can be answered proactively.
With most of the news media and information employees consume being hyperinflated and many times simply factually false, employers need to fill this void.