The coronavirus is unquestionably the business world's biggest curveball in 2020. While we've seen partial recoveries from economic dips and policies instituted to ensure health and safety, business owners are never quite sure how they'll weather the pandemic storm. Even the Harvard Business Review (HBR) -- ordinarily a resource for exploring traditional business topics -- has devoted an entire section of its homepage to Covid-19.
Because of the uncertainty that the pandemic engenders, it is critical that leaders focus on one key facet of management: ensuring employees' well-being. While this is a departure from most of the traditional priorities of business leaders, it is unquestionably necessary in our current health crisis.
Fortunately, it's relatively easy. Here are six things you can do to keep your company operating smoothly in the Covid-19 era:
1. Research and comply with national, regional, and local health guidelines.
There are many reasons to stay compliant with governmental guidelines. Yes, you avoid hefty fines and closures, but, more important, you also protect the greater community. If you remain lax in the office, your employees may take that attitude out into their daily lives and increase the chances of virus exposure or spread. Don't pretend the coronavirus away or chose to ignore it if governmental health organizations ask you to do otherwise. Their concern is for public safety; your business is part of that equation.
2. Create a companywide set of guidelines that is concise and highly visual.
Keep in mind that not all of your employees digest information the same way, so present critical health and safety information in multiple formats. Start with an easy-to-read poster with bulleted or itemized company policies related to the pandemic; this should include images that illustrate the main points. Post this throughout the office (if in-office attendance is still allowed or required) and email it to all employees.
3. Add an email signature to all senior manager emails for easy access to safety information.
A big part of the effort to keep your employees healthy is access to information. Include a link in your email signature that will take recipients to your company's coronavirus policies on your website. This can be set up for both internal stakeholders and customers or clients; both will want to be confident about how you're handling business operations during the pandemic. Also, be sure you cite vetted sources when providing details about Covid-19 or company health policies.
4. Record a video addressing the company's health and safety guidelines.
You, as the CEO or primary team leader, should be the subject. Keep the video brief (under two minutes) and walk through the main policies the company has instituted to keep everyone healthy and safe. Add onscreen visuals to make your address easier to follow. Share this via email or post to internal websites for easy access.
5. Create a forum for addressing frequently asked questions.
This could be a separate room in Slack, a group chat in Zoom, or a dedicated health and safety email inbox. Answer questions thoroughly and concisely in a forum that everyone at your company can access, and always give your employees a chance to follow up with additional questions. Appoint someone on your HR team to address or triage any new messages that come in.
Also, be sure to note that confidential questions should be directed by email to someone on the HR team for one-on-one resolution; these questions don't belong in public forums.
6. Communicate health and safety updates personally and frequently.
It's important to note that primary communications about safety must be communicated and modeled by the CEO. This may seem unnecessary, but employees want assurance that their safety is a top concern for their company; the best person to affirm companywide investment in health and safety is the leader at the top.
Also, check in frequently with your employees to reiterate the company's commitment to employee well-being. You may not make many changes to your policy over the course of a quarter, but the greater community will likely see significant changes in their responses to Covid-19. Reassure your team(s) that the company is making safety a top priority and that you have staff dedicated to creating, maintaining, and enforcing critical safety policies.
Pandemic-era management tactics like these may seem anomalous, and you may find yourself thinking that these efforts are an inappropriate use of your time. But your employees are the reason for your success; their well-being, mental and physical, should remain your top concern.