The coronavirus, or COVID-19 has taken the world by storm since it surfaced near the end of 2019. Since then, there have been thousands of cases around the world, and ways of life have changed drastically. 

In terms of business and internal communications, a lot of organizations are moving towards remote working models, and communications professionals are tasked with ensuring that all employees feel included and have the information they need. 

If you’re looking to learn more about the coronavirus, what you can do to protect yourself, how the coronavirus is impacting business, or how you can support and proactively communicate with employees in a time of crisis, then keep reading 📖👇

Start Planning Your Crisis Communications

 

What is Coronavirus? 

 

The coronavirus is part of a large family of viruses. These viruses cause sickness ranging from the common cold, to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). 

The strain we’re currently facing is called COVID-19 because it began to surface in late 2019 in Wuhan City, located in the Hubei Province of China. This strain is novel coronavirus, meaning that it has not been previously identified in human beings.

Coronavirus is zoonotic, or has the ability to be transmitted between humans and animals. There are several known strains circulating between animals that have not yet become novel, or infected humans. 

How to Prevent the Coronavirus 

Wash your hands 

The easiest way to prevent yourself from contracting the coronavirus is regular and proper hand washing. Not sure how long you should be washing your hands? While soaping your hands, sing “Happy Birthday” through twice, then rinse. 

If you’re coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and expel into your elbow. Doing either of these things right into your hands defeats the purpose, and increases risk of spreading the disease.

Stay home if you feel ill 

If you can, avoid close contact with anyone that shows symptoms of respiratory illness (i.e. coughing and sneezing). If this applies to you, don’t expose others to your germs. Take a sick day. If you can’t, opt for remote work days 💻

If possible, you should only leave home if you’re seeking medical care. If you are able, avoid taking public transit or ride-sharing. Before it gets to this point, you might create a list of medical practitioners within walking distance 📝

Clean and sanitize your living space 

To keep your home as clean as possible, clean high-touch surfaces frequently. These include doorknobs, phones, keyboards, counter tops, and bathroom fixtures. 

If there are surfaces exposed to blood, stool, or bodily fluids – clean them. While doing so, wear gloves and ensure you have proper ventilation for the use of cleaning products.

Educate Employees Through a Newsletter

 

What are the Symptoms of the Coronavirus? 

For a lot of people, COVID-19 starts off with symptoms of a common cold. Depending on the severity, these symptoms either fail to progress past that point, or can lead to the need for seeking medical attention, followed by a period of self-quarantine. 

The most common signs of infection with the coronavirus include: 

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath and other breathing difficulties
  • Sore throat
  • Headache

In more severe cases, the coronavirus can cause: 

  • Pneumonia
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) 
  • Kidney failure
  • Death 

If you think you may have the coronavirus:

Seek immediate medical assistance from your medical care provider. If they believe you may have COVID-19, they’ll contact your local health department for instructions on testing. Depending on where you live, you may have to visit a special lab. 

Here’s what to expect during testing: 

  • Swab test: A special swag will be used to take samples from your nose and/or throat
  • Nasal aspirate: A saline solution will be injected into your nose, then the samples will be removed with suction 
  • Tracheal aspirate: A thin, lighted tube (bronchoscope) will be fed into your lungs to collect a sample 
  • Sputum test: May be asked to cough up sputum (thick mucus in lungs) into a special cup
  • Blood test: A blood sample will be taken from a vein in your arm

Give your employees the best information possible!

How to Properly Self-Quarantine with the Coronavirus 

Depending on your risk level (low or medium), individuals or families may be asked to remain in isolation. People are placed into the “medium risk” category if they’ve travelled somewhere with “widespread sustained transmission” in the past 14 days, or had close contact on a plane with someone showing symptoms of the coronavirus.

Quarantine is used to separate those who have been potentially exposed, whereas isolation is used to separate an already sick person from those who are not yet infected. Click To Tweet

Quarantine is in effect for the upper limit of virus incubation (or the time between exposure and showing symptoms). Isolation lasts for the period of contagion, meaning a person needs to be symptom-free and test negative for the coronavirus. 

Here’s how to properly contain yourself if you may have been exposed or have tested positive: 

  • Stay away from others you share your home with as much as possible (separate rooms and separate bathrooms) 
  • Limit contact with your pets
  • Accept no visitors outside of people that need to be in your home 
  • Avoid sharing household items (including cups, utensils, towels, bedding)
  • Call ahead to make sure you’re going to correct place if you need medical attention
  • Wear a face mask if you must be around others 
  • Immediately dispose of tissues that you cough and sneeze into 
  • If you aren’t able to wash hands with soap and water for 20+ seconds, use hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60% alcohol content 
  • Use an air conditioner or open your windows to improve air flow 
Keep Remote Workers in the Loop

 

How the Coronavirus Has Affected Business 

Although remote work is one of the biggest employee engagement trends in 2020, a lot of companies are only in the beginning stages of being ready to adopt this method of working. However, with the heightened risk of illness that the coronavirus presents, organizations have to be prepared to adopt sooner. 

Four effective strategies for remote work during the coronavirus include: 

  1. Providing secure access to IT resources and the Internet itself. 
  2. Giving employees access to tools for productivity and collaboration. 
  3. Using this public health crisis as an opportunity to develop skills around remote work. 
  4. Embracing and fostering a company culture around remote work. 

As an employer, bear in mind that even if you adopt a remote work policy, it is part of a larger preventative measure. If it’s not really something you believe in, nor is it feasible in your line of work (e.g. if you work in retail), make it clear to employees that this is a temporary solution in a time of public health concern and crisis. 

How to Keep Your Internal Communications Sharp During Crisis

As an internal communications professional, it’s your responsibility to make sure that the information you’re giving to employees is accurate, up to date, and essential. 

People are already experiencing heightened levels of anxiety and mental health issues due to the coronavirus outbreak, so you don’t want to add to that by mismanaging internal communications. 

To keep your internal communications sharp during this public health crisis:  

  • Have a plan to ensure you’re not over-updating your employees
  • Use reputable outlets for your information (like the World Health Organization) 
  • Make sure that you’re using accessible language in your internal emails 
  • Outline any company-wide policies, such as expectations around remote work

How to communicate with employees during a crisis 

According to HR Magazine, there are eight key things employers need to do when communicating to employees about a crisis. Whether it’s a public health crisis, or internal communications that could potentially go external, set your employees up for success. 

Here are their 8 tips: 

  1. Be proactive before a crisis hits. 
  2. Get a crisis management team in place. 
  3. Notify employees, rather than expecting that they come to you. 
  4. Help employees craft messages with correct information. 
  5. Don’t inform employees for the sake of speed – be accurate.
  6. Say something as soon as possible.  
  7. Test out your communication process regularly.  
  8. Evaluate your internal communications pre and post-crisis.

Tips for managing stress during the coronavirus outbreak

If you don’t have any major updates to provide employees with, you can offer them tips to help them manage their feelings of anxiety. The World Health Organization has put together several resources, including infographics and videos. 

Some tips they offer on managing stress include: 

  • Talking to people you trust in moments of stress, confusion, fear, or anger 
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle if you have to be at home 
  • Avoid replying on smoking, alcohol, or other drugs to cope
  • Gather accurate information to understand the severity of your risk for the coronavirus
  • Lessen screen time and attention to upsetting media 
  • Tap into skills that have helped you handle stress and adversity in the past 

There are a lot of ways that you can approach creating an excellent employee newsletter that is both informative and enjoyable to read. Even if the content isn’t the most uplifting, the presentation of information will keep your employees engaged.

Sending Engaging Internal Emails

 

What Channels to Use for Employee Updates 

We’re big fans of newsletters and succinct internal emails for employee communications. That’s no surprise, seeing as we’ve created an add-in for Outlook and Gmail that makes it easy for internal communications professionals to create, send, and track their email communications. 

Here are some other internal communications tools you may want to consider: 

  • Conferencing 
  • Chats and forums
  • Social media 
  • Signage 

There are a ton of tools available for internal communications, and what you use will be dependent on the type of organization you’re in. 

If you’re more corporate, you may be operating on an intranet or exclusively sending internal newsletters. Whereas a tech company may opt for an internal podcast or video content. 

See the potential that an internal communications tool can give your organization.

How ContactMonkey Supports Employees 

One of our employees made us really aware of the coronavirus in-house. Her family resides near the area where COVID-19 is believed to have originated, and she was open in sharing her knowledge – and concern – around what this would mean for those she knew back home, and around the world. 

As a company, we knew we had to do something, especially when it was so close to home for someone we worked with every day. We started a Gofundme page to raise money. Our CEO, Scott, vowed to match whatever we raised as a team.

In one day, we raised $1032.94 CAD to assist residents and medical professionals in Wuhan City. Due to our focus on internal communications and employee engagement, everyone knew about the severity of the situation, what it meant to our co-worker, and what us stepping up would mean. 

Gather Employee Feedback on Fundraisers

 

In summary: 

  • Proactively communicate with employees during a crisis 
  • Wash your hands frequently and properly
  • Limit your exposure by not taking public transit and travelling by plane only if necessary
  • Keep the surfaces in your home clean 
  • Stay at home if you feel yourself becoming ill (especially with a cough or sneeze) 
  • Stay informed through reputable outlets
  • Be open to a shift towards remote work on a temporary basis 

You may also like:

How to Measure Employee Engagement Using eNPS

How to Use an Employee Pulse Survey in 2020

Employee Feedback: Emoji Reactions, Pulse Surveys, and Comments

 

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