As the coronavirus spreads and the situation seems to be changing on a daily basis, more and more businesses are starting to prepare for a potentially serious impact on their operations.
Of course, employees are at the heart of any business, and for managers, looking after their health and wellbeing should form the basis of your response. Employees will look to you for direction, and conversations about the coronavirus and the plans the business has in place need to happen quickly, or you risk panic and misinformation spreading which won’t do anyone any good.
Here’s how to address your team’s concerns about the coronavirus.
Ask how people are feeling about it
The best way to understand how your team members are feeling about the coronavirus outbreak, and what their fears and concerns are, is to simply ask. Whether it’s in meetings or 1:1s, finding out this information will help you put together a clear response and address the issues.
One way you might do this is to put some communication documents together, including an FAQ sheet so that employees are informed about to prevent the spread of the virus and look after themselves, as well as the plans that are in place for the management of the situation going forward. This will go a long way to reducing anxiety about the virus and what will happen.
Educate yourself and your employees
Misinformation can spread panic, and as far as the coronavirus goes, there’s a lot of it around. As a manager, the best thing you can do is to keep up with the most current Government and public health advice from official sources like GOV.UK and the NHS. You can then communicate this to employees, reassure them, and remind them of:
The basic but essential steps to take to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, including:
- Washing hands regularly
- Using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if soap and water is not immediately available
- Covering the nose and mouth with a tissue if coughing or sneezing and binning the tissue right away.
What the symptoms of the coronavirus actually are:
If employees are aware that the virus presents with a fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath, they can take swift action to self-isolate and avoid coming to work and spreading the illness. If employees are genuinely ill, even if their symptoms are mild, now is not the time for presenteeism.
- The guidance for people who have travelled to affected areas or who have been in contact with an infected person
- Your current policy on sick pay and leave
Talk about how the business will deal with coming challenges
If the situation does worsen considerably, how will the business deal with the challenges it will face? How will you address your team’s concerns about what may happen in the worst-case scenario? This is something that you need to communicate to employees. It’s good practice to have a contingency plan in place for the business and the coronavirus outbreak is a great example of a situation that warrants being prepared to communicate the plan to employees and put it in place.
Measures the business could be considering might include:
- Allowing employees to work from home where possible.
- Limiting travel; cancelling conferences and non-essential meetings off-site. Businesses can make use of video conferencing in these cases.
Treat this as an opportunity to show your team that you care
The best way to navigate any crisis is to come together in the face of it. Listen to people’s fears, let them ask questions, share concerns, and contribute ideas about how best to move forward in this very difficult and constantly changing situation.
Don’t withhold information-say what you’re going to do, how and when you’re going to do it, and why. Doing this builds trust and reassures employees that you have their back in a crisis. Trust me, this will go a long way to showing employees that you care about them and appreciate them, and they’ll reward you with hard work and loyalty in the months and years to come.