How to Talk to Employees: Creating Calm When Anxiety Has Gone Viral

Each of your employees carry different concerns – from worry about a parent with suppressed immunity to finding daycare if school is cancelled.

You’ll earn their gratitude and loyalty if you communicate in ways that are clear, respectful and transparent.

Remember, your goal is to ease anxiety as much as possible – without belittling the legitimate worries that people may have. A good first step? Listening. Ask employees directly what concerns them – then offer what assurances you can.

Here are six topics you may want to address with employees:

1. Exposure: If an employee or customer has a known exposure to the virus, it’s important to communicate to your staff in a way that is factual, non-alarmist, and proactive. For example, communicate any mitigations that have been taken. (Office sanitized, self-quarantine in place, etc.)

2. Predictable Business Effects: Discuss in calm, realistic ways contingency plans for negative impacts on business, including cancelled events.

3. Personal Safety: Share things you can do together to prevent the spread of the virus. “Let’s bump elbows at this meeting.”

4. Policy Reminders: Ensure all employees know protocol for sick leave, work-from-home policies and business travel guidelines and have an avenue to ask questions about those policies.

5. Practical Advice: For those who could work from home if needed, suggest taking files or laptop home nightly. Encourage alternatives to business travel. Create a database of contact information to easily communicate with coworkers and management when away from the office.

6. Pocketbook Issues: Address honestly the financial impacts, lost commissions, lost hours, etc. that may happen. Offer sympathy and any assistance you can realistically provide.

Beverly Bartlett, C2 Strategic Communications

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