The importance of communicating with your workforce  – during the coronavirus outbreak and beyond

The coronavirus crisis may already have taken its toll on the mental health of some of your staff and, unfortunately, there may be further difficult times ahead and more tough decisions for employers to make. So, it’s even more crucial than ever that employers have effective mechanisms in place to communicate effectively with their entire workforce throughout this difficult period.

Here are some of our top tips for communicating with your workforce:

 Take time for individual conversations

The simplest and easiest way you can find out exactly how your staff are coping is to ask them how they are. Line managers are key to this and, where possible, should be having regular conversations with all members of their teams, including those working from home. They should ensure that such employees continue to receive the same level of support, feedback on their work and recognition they would in the workplace. One-to-one conversations will provide an opportunity for individuals to raise any personal issues or concerns they may have and, if necessary, for the line manager to signpost them to other sources of support.

Be open about decision-making

Businesses may have to continue to take some tough decisions over the next weeks and months, including whether to continue to furlough staff, ask those that can to continue to work from home, or they may even have to consider closures and redundancies.

Although none of this is easy, if you provide your staff with clear and timely information and, where possible, involve them in some of the decisions being made, this is likely to reduce anxiety and will be beneficial to their mental health. Being transparent about the actions you are taking and why and showing how you are trying to balance everyone’s interests will help define your future relationship with your workforce. Whether you are trying to agree new contractual terms with your workforce, or communicating to an employee why they have been furloughed, open communication is critical and will be key to managing the anxiety felt by all parties involved in these unprecedented circumstances.

Encourage interaction and collaboration

It’s important to recognise that for those not currently in the workplace, the removal of individuals from their work-based (and indeed other) social circles could have a significantly negative effect on their welfare, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness. The opportunity to gain regular feedback on aspects of their work, or to discuss work-related issues with others can also be missed, leading to anxiety and/or insecurity. Employers, therefore, need to think about how they can maintain levels of communication and facilitate interaction and collaboration between members of their workforce, including those who may be shielding, furloughed or working from home. This may be achieved by using collaboration technologies such as zoom for regular meetings, for example, or by encouraging homeworking staff to participate in virtual coffee breaks.