Leverage Brand Protection Strategies During COVID: 3 Steps for a Solid Return-to-Work Plan
Updated: Sep 21
COVID-19 has changed the world. Those changes vary from state to state as do the rules and regulations that have come with the reopening of our economy. Let’s take Colorado for example. Here, we are being asked to wear a mask while we are out of the house for essential purposes. Yes, even in one of the first states to reopen, as Governor Polis put it, “It’s not a free-for-all.”
Where does that leave non-essential employers who are getting ready to welcome back their team members in Colorado or elsewhere across the country? Whether you lead a small company of fewer than 10 or you are the head of a megacorporation overseeing hundreds of workers, there are a few things your team members are going to want to know before they come back to work. Now is the time to pass along that information. I think this Vlog we recorded last week may help you get that information out to your workforce, even if they are on furlough.
A Return-to-Work Plan is Part of a Good Crisis Plan
Step 1: Establish a Workplace Health and Safety Plan
Enough with the workplace reminders about hand-washing for 30 seconds. It’s going to be that much more difficult to focus if baby shark is playing on repeat in your employees' brains! Simply put, it’s not enough. With OSHA only issuing suggestions about how to pandemic-proof your place of work, it’s up to employers and managers to be thought leaders and take the next steps to help their team feel as safe as they can at the office. When I was a moody teenager working as a dishwasher for the Northside Diner in Bennington, VT, one of our waitresses always told me “A happy employee is a good employee.” While she was teasing, it’s a great point. Worker productivity will be next to zero if employees are too busy focusing on avoiding the contraction of coronavirus and not on their task at hand.
Step 2: Establish a sick leave plan
According to CNN, 1 million Americans have already had coronavirus, with the majority of those cases going undiagnosed due to symptoms being too mild for hospitalization. While that number only represents .3% of the population, remember our first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in late January. As of the time of this writing, it’s late April. COVID-19 isn’t going away, especially as we reopen the economy. Should a symptomatic person get into the building, what’s the company plan to keep them away from other workers? The days of riding out the common cold at work are over. Employees need to know that it’s okay to not come to work if they aren’t feeling well, even if it’s a sniffle.
Step 3: Don’t overthink
It’s so easy to make like Alice and go down the rabbit hole, especially when dealing with something the magnitude of a pandemic.
Even if you had the perfect plan, if you’re not communicating effectively to your team, it will be all for not. Take a deep breath and think about what it would be like to be in their shoes as they are coming back to work for the first time, following a 6-week furlough. What simple things would make you feel safer in the workplace? What could your boss say to you so you didn’t feel as if you had to work through an illness that could otherwise be symptomatic of coronavirus? Make a list, organize your thoughts and execute a clear consistent communication strategy, which includes consistent outreach a week to 10 days prior to them coming back to work.
Can you set-up a private Facebook page just for employees so you can listen to their concerns, push out information, and answer questions?
Can you send several short, easy-to-read read emails that address specific issues?
Can you set up a hotline where people can call in and talk to a live person? Or, maybe they leave a message and have someone call them back?
COVID-19 has changed the world. Until there is instant testing on a worldwide scale or a vaccine, it’s up to responsible people to make informed decisions to navigate these waters. Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the phrase “these are uncertain times” too many times to count. These times are far from uncertain. America is getting back to work because we cannot stay furloughed, laid off, or working from home until there’s a cure. The only uncertainty lies with those people getting back to work and whether or not they can do their job without the constant fear of contracting coronavirus.
M&C Communications specializes in CBD public relations, crisis communications and media training. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for the very latest on public relations and communications.