Engaging Employees During the Coronavirus Pandemic

COVID-19 is top of mind for employers and employees across the globe. In this time of uncertainty and disruption, we hope these resources empower you to keep your employees safe, healthy, and engaged.

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We're all in this together.

 
The world is different today than it was a few months ago. COVID-19 has swept across our world and nation. Uncertainty is at an all-time high, as we experience a complete disruption in our homes and workplaces. There’s no quick fix. There’s no silver bullet.
 
The best thing we as leaders can do is lean in. Listen to your employees, empathize with their greatest concerns, communicate frequently and confidently, and be flexible and supportive to meet their needs.
 
Our mission at Quantum Workplace is to make work better every day—but sometimes there are circumstances that make that challenging. Know that we’re here for you. We’re rooting for your success.

With love,
 
Greg Harris
CEO | Quantum Workplace
 
1

[New Research] COVID-19 Impact on Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement Research Ebook_Press-ReleaseAs the COVID-19 virus began to surge in the United States, federal and state governments started to implement strict lockdowns and social distancing guidelines.

Many workers have lost their jobs. Essential employees have faced new standard operating procedures and restrictions to protect the health and well-being of workers and customers. And many organizations moved their entire workforces to temporary remote work and telecommuting.

This global pandemic has forced businesses to make drastic changes to the workplace, and as a result, caused complete disruption to the employee experience.

Download a copy of our research report to learn about the key findings and trends uncovered during the global pandemic and economic fallout, including:

  • The effect on employee engagement during COVID-19
  • The correlation of deteriorating economic and labor conditions
  • Which areas of employee engagement have changed 
  • The impact on different types of workers

DOWNLOAD THE RESEARCH

2

To Survey or Not to Survey?

 

During this crisis, we’ve been asked a lot about surveying.

  • Should we still launch our annual engagement survey?
  • When should we do it?
  • How should we approach it?  

In this video, our Director of People Insights, Anne Maltese, explains why it’s imperative to collect employee feedback and intelligence right now.

5 Benefits of Launching Your Employee Engagement Survey Right Now

  1. It will create a sense of normalcy.
  2. It will ensure employees feel valued, heard, and engaged.
  3. It will surface what's happening in your workforce and help you make data-driven decisions.
  4. It will highlight organizational strengths to leverage and challenges to address.
  5. It will help you navigate this crisis and provide guidance for long-term success.
3

Stages of Crisis Management

stages of crisis managementDealing with the impact of COVID-19 is overwhelming for everyone involved. And the path to recovery and success from the aftermath will likely be a rocky one. A key factor in making sure your organization is successful on the other side is focusing inward. No matter how challenging, we must listen, respond, and act on our employees’ concerns and anxieties with empathy.

We’ve outlined 5 stages that your organization might be experiencing. The goal is to understand where you are so you can identify issues or roadblocks you’re likely facing and what you should consider to continue moving your business forward.

However, every organization is different. These phases can be linear or cyclical, but most likely you'll find yourself jumping around at times, and that’s okay.
Keep looking forward and know we’re in this together.


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Firefighting

In the midst of a fire, your first instinct is to put it out. But right before you make the decision to grab a bucket, you likely are thinking how did this fire start? When facing a problem that impacts your employees and your business, you may find yourself wanting to find the culprit while navigating chaos.

You may be facing the reality of reductions in force, having to take your full business online, or supporting essential employees as they continue work. No matter what—before you start searching for solutions—you need to pause. You need to understand what’s going on in your business and with your employees. Take account of employee needs, understand your performance processes and what might need to shift, and commit to a strategic plan that works for your organization.

Learn more >>>

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Responding

Now that you have a good understanding of how your workforce and workplace are handling things, you need to take time to pause and respond appropriately. How you respond to this crisis will likely impact the success of your employees and your business down the road.

By asking for your employees’ opinions, you have a lot of information at your fingertips that you need to respond to and act on. You want to own the narrative because you don’t want employees to make assumptions about what’s going on or fill in the gaps on their own. Because you asked, they are expecting you to respond—if you don’t you’ll send the wrong message.

Additionally, employees are likely feeling a lot of fear, anxiety, and lack of clarity. They might be worried about losing their job or may be struggling to survive in a completely new work environment. It’s important that you are crystal clear about performance expectations during this time. Priorities have likely shifted and workloads may look very different—don’t leave employees guessing about what they should or should not be doing.

Learn more >>>

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Supporting

People respond to and approach change in a variety of ways. Your employees are likely feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and struggling to stay connected and perform well. Helping people move through transitional phases and accept a new reality is sometimes easier said than done.

While you may still be dealing with unexpected twists and turns in getting your workforce up and running in a new environment, it's important to recognize how vital maintaining a little normalcy is to your organization’s success. Although you might not know how to deal with this crisis, anticipating what’s next will challenge you to be proactive in coaching your employees and managers to help your business regain its momentum.

Learn more >>>

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Recovering

After you’ve addressed your employees’ needs, made adjustments, and settled into your new normal it's time to get back to business as usual. You might settle into a new normal for a time, but another big change is right around the corner.

  • What will it look like when it's time to go back to work?
  • How will the changes you've made impact the future of your work, people, and culture?
  • What do you need to get ahead of before this next wave of change hits?

In reality, returning to normal business after a major crisis isn’t always possible. Your company’s DNA has evolved and may be operating a little differently. So before you can begin to put the pieces together to get back on track, you must pause and be intentional about your next move—even when you’re feeling the pressure to get things moving.

Learn more >>>

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Succeeding

It may not seem like it, but going through major change can be extremely rewarding for organizations. Experiencing hardship in the moment is very difficult, but how you fight through, respond, support your employees, and recover is what ultimately leads to future success.

Learn more >>>

4

Resources for Engaging Employees During COVID-19

employee emotions

Our research shows a clear connection between your emotional culture and employee engagement. Discover new ways to keep your employees engaged and your business afloat by:

  • Understanding and assessing your emotional culture
  • Decreasing employee stress and anxiety
  • Coaching your people leaders to deal with turbulent employee emotions

[Guide] Managing Employee Emotions During the COVID-19 Pandemic >>>

leadership

Employee trust is leadership’s greatest asset—especially during times of uncertainty, crisis, and panic.

  • Do's and don'ts of fostering employee trust
  • 22 leadership strategies that build employee trust
  • 6 leadership dark sides that break employee trust

[Guide] 22 Leadership Strategies That Build Trust During Uncertain Times >>>

remote work

Remote work is becoming a new normal for many organizations. To maintain workplace culture while making this shift, discover how to engage your employees by:

  • Inspiring an inclusive remote culture that engages all employees
  • Recognizing the challenges that come with managing remote employees
  • Shifting to effective remote working environments and staying motivated

[Guide] Keeping Your Dispersed Workforce Engaged >>>

managing change

During times of crisis, organizational leaders should establish feelings of trust with employees by communicating accurate and clear information continuously. Organizational change can be a daunting challenge for people leaders who are also experiencing personal change.

  • Master communication to create clarity and trust
  • Give all employees a voice
  • Employee listening tools to manage change

[Guide] Managing Change During a Crisis >>>

employee listening

We know one of your top priorities is to ensure that your workforce continues to feel supported and safe. One of the best ways to do this is by listening. You have a lot on your plate right now, so it’s important you feel well-equipped to gather feedback and uncover employee concerns during uncertain times like this.

  • 5 reasons to collect employee feedback during a crisis
  • A step-by-step guide to launching a pulse survey
  • Two pulse survey templates for you to implement today

[Guide] Elevating Employee Listening During the COVID-19 Pandemic >>>

[Template] Pulse Survey Templates for Real-Time Employee Listening >>>

one-on-ones

As the COVID-19 crisis evolves, we know one of your top priorities is to ensure that your workforce continues to feel supported and safe. One of the best ways to do this is through one-on-one conversations.

  • 5 reasons to conduct one-on-ones during a crisis
  • 3 myths about having conversations during difficult times
  • Manager tips for critical conversations
  • 3 one-on-one templates for honest conversations

[Guide] How to Navigate Conversations During COVID-19 >>>

[Templates] One-on-One Meeting Templates for COVID-19 >>>

5

Pulse Survey Templates for Real-Time Employee Listening

We’ve created lightweight employee pulse surveys to help you collect invaluable employee feedback on remote work readiness and crisis management. Leverage these survey items whether you use Quantum Workplace, another survey software provider, or free DIY solutions.

working-from-home

Working From Home

Download the Template

flexible-workplace

Flexible Workplace

Download the Template

workplace-reopening

Workplace Reopening

Download the Template

remote-pulse

Remote Work Readiness

Download the Template

emergency-pulse

Crisis Management

Download the Template

 

6

News and Health Information

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[CDC] Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will update this interim guidance as needed and as additional information becomes available.

Read more >>

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[WHO] Getting Your Workplace Ready for COVID-19

WHO and public health authorities around the world are taking action to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. However, long term success cannot be taken for granted. All sections of our society – including businesses and employers – must play a role if we are to stop the spread of this disease.

Read more >>

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[NPR] Tracking the Spread of Coronavirus

Learn about recent developments since the first U.S. case of the coronavirus was identified in Washington state on Jan. 21. This article has U.S. and global maps indicating the cases and deaths by state, region, and country.

Read more >>

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[McKinsey] Implications for Business

McKinsey & Company launched a free resource that lists in detail the specific business implications of COVID-19 moving forward.

Read more >>

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[Washington Post] Why Outbreaks Like Coronavirus Spread Exponentially

"After the first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new strain of coronavirus, was announced in the United States, reports of further infections trickled in slowly. Two months later, that trickle has turned into a steady current."

Read more >>>

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[POLITICO] Coronavirus Special Edition

An intelligence briefing on how coronavirus is impacting politics and public policy, the economy, and global health.

Read more >>>

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How Businesses are Battling COVID-19

Patagonia temporarily closed its stores, offices, and other operations and encouraged employees who can work from home to do so. Read more >>>

LVMH converted three of its perfume manufacturing facilities where it normally makes fragrances to make hand sanitizer instead. Read more >>>

Cox is helping get families in need connect to the internet through its Connect2Compete program. Read more >>>

Tableau launched a free resource page that includes relevant data visualizations about the spread of COVID-19 and the public health response. Read more >>>

AT&T implemented a work from home policy for those employees and paid leave policies for parents who are exposed to or have contracted the virus. Read more >>>

NBA players and owners are stepping by paying hourly and part-time employees to recover lost wages. Read more >>>

Crowdstrike developed two new programs to address cybersecurity challenges with customers who have employees working from home. Read more >>>


Latest #COVID-19 Updates from the CDC and WHO

 

Here are a few more tips from our team of experts for navigating this crisis.
7

Frequently Asked Questions

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How can I set my employees up for success to work remotely?

We recommend following these steps:

Be clear with employees about remote work expectations.

Equip employees with the resources they need to be successful.

Be flexible and trust employees to get their work done.

Encourage teams to stay connected.

Remind employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Included in this microsite is a pulse survey template you can utilize to ensure that employees feel like they have what they need to effectively work remotely.

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Should we delay our engagement survey if we are planning to launch soon?

Every organization’s circumstance is going to be a little different. While some organizations are already accustomed to working remotely and have the bandwidth to still launch a survey, others might take a little time to transition. If it’s still feasible for you to launch the survey, we encourage you to do so. Employees want a sense of normalcy at this time, and launching the survey will help give employees a critical voice. If you choose to delay, we recommend finding another way to request feedback from your employees, like a pulse survey.

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If I'm delaying our survey, what should I do next?

Communicate a timeline. If you’ve already communicated about the upcoming survey (or this is the timeframe in which employees usually expect to receive it), share your new plans with your employees, explaining your rationale and expected timing of the survey launch.

Respond and reassure. Explain that employee feedback is still very critical during this time and let employees know you still value their concerns, ideas, opinions, etc.

Gather employee feedback. Provide an open communication channel to utilize for employee updates and feedback.

Launch a pulse survey. Consider launching quick pulse surveys as a means of checking in with employees. This critical feedback can inform your efforts.

Shift engagement efforts. Utilize other listening and feedback channels.

>> For organizations where current events have increased the workload or created more urgency (e.g. healthcare, police force, etc.), or for critical roles within organizations, conduct 15-minute check-ins at least twice per day or shift (virtual if possible). After time evolves (1-2 weeks), you may be able to reduce the frequency of daily check-ins.

>> Information and communication to and from employees is crucial. Teams shouldn’t worry about finding the perfect time for everyone to meet. Sometimes they just need to have a quick meeting, record it, or follow up with those who couldn’t attend to ensure everyone is aligned.

>> Let employees know where you’ll post critical updates, and aim to leverage familiar communication channels if possible. Consider posting non-sensitive or public updates on public platforms (e.g., LinkedIn or social media). This approach can help loved ones/family members stay in the loop for companies they are associated with. 

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We want to collect employee feedback. What can we do now?

Consider launching quick pulse surveys, or ask employees questions during one-one-ones to get a sense of perceptions and to highlight potential challenges or opportunities.

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In uncertain times, what tips do you have for leaders who feel disconnected from their teams?

Be honest, open, and candid with your team. There is a good chance the majority of your leaders, managers, and employees have not had to deal with a pandemic such as this. Reiterate that you are taking everything one day at a time. Managers and employees need to be understanding of each other, share more than ever, and rely on all forms of communication.

Rely on your peers. Don’t try to manage alone. Seek out other managers or leaders in your company for advice and questions as needed. They are your support system during this time.

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The executive team isn’t taking this crisis seriously, what should I do?

Direct a committee to oversee crisis-related activities. Communication is critical to the success of an organization during this time. Try to coach and help the CEO through the crisis.

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How do I know if I’m communicating enough?

Communicate Frequently. Too much time between communications can result in employees feeling unnecessarily stressed, frustrated, and prone to hearsay or rumors.

Be Detailed. Explain what’s going on, what (if anything) has changed, if and how employees are personally impacted, and where they can find resources and ask questions.

Provide Clarity. Amping up the frequency and detail in your communications is important, but each communication should result in employees having more clarity than before. What are the few key messages you need to convey? If the list grows to more than a few key messages, or if topics blend and become blurry, separate your communications to keep each point crystal clear.

Be Empathetic. Employees are humans. Many of us are feeling anxious, concerned, stressed, and afraid right now. Acknowledging your employees’ feelings demonstrates that you care about them at the most basic (and important) level.

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Should my company be communicating anything about economic impact yet?

At this time, it might be too early to really know a lot about economic impact. However, leaders should communicate what they know and what they can communicate. They can acknowledge the uncertainty of this time, and the state of the markets right now, and share how that might impact the organization. But they should only talk about what they know. Don’t share any guesses. Otherwise, employees will often fill in the gaps.

It’s important to be transparent with employees - even if they can't predict what's ahead, or if the news is tough. This will help show that leaders respect and care about their employees (even if it feels like the opposite when they’re making hard decisions about staffing, furloughs, etc.).

When leaders are consistently honest and transparent, employees build trust over time. Leaders may consider providing a preview into what their decision-making process looks like in terms of layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts and could share the mechanisms or triggering events that might lead to those kinds of decisions.

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I launched the Remote Work Readiness (or Emergency & Crisis Management) pulse survey, now what?

Look at the overall organization results to determine if there are common themes/needs emerging that might need to be addressed by the organization immediately.

Managers and team leaders should review their team's results and follow up with the team or individuals as needed for specific needs.

Ensure your managers are equipped to handle any of the equipment or communication needs. They need to be aligned with the communication that is coming from senior leaders and individualize that communication for what it means for their specific team.

Don't aim for perfection (especially with the Remote Work Readiness survey). You likely can't solve everything for everyone. Instead, aim for bigger opportunities that can be solved. For instance, Quantum Workplace allows employees to take home office equipment like monitors and comfortable desk chairs. We used feedback to influence when and how we communicate. Managers understand they may need to flex when employees work as they also have children at home.

It's unlikely you can solve every issue for every person, but this information can equip your managers to check-in, understand what barriers might exist, and coach employees through navigating as best as possible.

Consider follow-up action. Launch a pulse in a couple of weeks to the entire organization, or use a more targeted follow-up to teams/segments of the organization or to areas of need.

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What are some ways we can help employees feel connected when they’re working from home?

Encourage your company leaders to send out regular communication providing updates or an overview of recent business activity—consider a daily message at the end of each day that highlights wins, potential challenges, and even fun happenings that you’d usually talk about in the office.

Publicly celebrate great work that’s happening across the organization—showcase the achievements of individuals, teams, and the entire organization.

Continue to have regular manager-employee conversations. Even though they may look a little different in the current state, it’s still easy to connect using tools like videoconferencing.

Let employees see each other’s faces when communicating via technology. Consider utilizing video chat.

Hold regular check-ins with the team. Have daily video check-ins, stand-ups, end of week recaps, maybe even a video happy hour.

Find ways for employees with similar interests to connect, through things like Slack channels. Some of our favorite channels at Quantum Workplace are #dogsofqw, #parenthood, and #foodies.

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What are some tips for success for employees new to working remotely?

1. Follow your typical routine.
2. Create a dedicated workspace.
3. Make more effort than typical to connect.
4. Check-in with others.
5. Set boundaries.
6. Don’t strive for perfection.

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How do you maintain employee well-being remotely?

Take away unnecessary stress. Communicate frequently and don't leave employees to wonder or make up false realities. Provide flexibility as it makes sense, and make sure employees feel connected to their team.

Remind employees of benefit offerings, like Employee Assistance Program, especially those that can be leveraged virtually.

Send nudges to your team to promote healthy behaviors like going on a walk, exercising, or taking a brain break.

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What’s the best way to get status reports from my team?

Consider increasing the frequency of one-on-ones, even if you decrease the amount of time they take. Managers should make sure that goal updates are still happening for visibility.

Utilize channels such as Slack and Microsoft Teams as platforms for status sharing.

Hold daily or weekly video conferences and stand-ups. You can use this time to review top priorities and areas of focus.

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How do I keep employee development and growth going remotely?

Right now, there are a lot of online development resources that are being offered for free such as Coursera.

Attend webinars and free online resources. Join one as a team, or regularly update the team about relevant opportunities.

If you’re looking for a scaled-back option, hold a mini Learn 'n Lunch for a quick 30-minute session. Make sure to record.

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How can I help my employees balance home life and remote circumstances?

Encourage employees to set a routine. It might be a new routine, potentially with more flexibility to work outside of the 8-5 timeframe. Make sure there’s time allotted for things like breaks, exercising, and mental health.

Set up an office space that's physically separate from the rest of your space, if possible. This way, you can show up to the office in the morning, and leave the office in the evening—physical boundaries can help create mental or emotional boundaries.

Managers must have enough emotional intelligence to know when to personalize their approach. During COVID-19, many workers are being forced to wear many hats at home—caregiver for kids, teacher, chef, caring for sick family, counselor, etc. Therefore, it may be the best time to be flexible and understanding about timing and life outside of work. Focus on the outputs by employees instead of presenteeism.

When assessing performance ask yourself if the underperformance is due to the situation or the competence or ability. A down sales week might be because of all the hats one is now asked to wear instead of a true performance issue.

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How can I show our culture is people-first during a crisis?

Continue to communicate, source feedback, and close the loop. Show employees how their feedback was used.

Ensure employees continue to receive updates from company leaders. Remember that when people don't hear anything, they may fill in the blanks themselves and you don't want that.

Don't wait too long for employee engagement initiatives and plans. Be future-oriented and keep moving forward. This may be easier for some organizations over others, depending on their workforce, how their organization is impacted, etc.

Rather than delaying, pausing, or reacting to events as they unfold, employee engagement initiatives should be a top priority like one-on-ones, goals, and feedback.

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What are some ways I can connect with my team when they’re working remotely?

Hold virtual happy hours or 15-minute check-in calls just to chat about how the team is doing without talking about business.

Find ways to laugh as a team. Have someone send out a fact of the day, funny story, or something to get people communicating.

Start a new tradition—things like recurring virtual lunches or coffee chats.

8

12 Tips for Engaging Employees During Times of Uncertainty

The best way to ease anxiety is to provide clear, confident, and consistent communication. Here are a few tips to consider, or you can read the full blog.

stay calm

Stay calm.

The last thing you want to do is feed into the panic. Position your organization as a safe place and a trusted resource for employees.

keep informed

Keep informed.

Don’t get caught up in the media frenzy. Pay attention to the latest updates from the most credible sources, such as the CDC or WHO

be proactive

Be proactive.

Anticipate needs and questions that might come up and make a plan. Communicate that plan clearly and consistently.

leaders

Equip your people leaders.

Make sure managers are equipped to communicate and respond to questions and concerns.

empathy

Understand and empathize.

Acknowledge that employees might feel anxious. Be there to listen and make sure they have access to the information and resources they need.

don't try to manage it alone

Don't try to manage it alone.

It’s ok to ask for help. Lean on your peers for support, advice, and questions. In this ever-evolving state of uncertainty, it’s a daunting task for anyone to keep up. This will help you stay focused on your employees.

find other ways to connect

Find other ways to connect.

If your entire team is working remotely, find fun ways to connect. Set a daily time to share things like how you’re maintaining physical fitness at home, what you’re binge-watching, or enjoy a virtual lunch together.

normalcy

Try to maintain normalcy.

This is a chaotic time for everyone – leaders, managers, and employees. Try to keep things as normal as possible to provide some stability, like keeping recurring meetings and encouraging employees to maintain their regular routine.

expectations

Set clear expectations.

Be clear with employees about work expectations and performance. Many employees are transitioning to working remotely when that may not be the norm. Be honest and open so there aren’t surprises.

flexible

Be flexible.

A lot of employees are living a new day-to-day, very different from their routine. There are new working arrangements, interrupted childcare, and lots of uncertainty. Trust employees to get their work done. It just might not fall within the standard 8-5 timeframe.

recognition

Show your gratitude.

Thank your employees. Acknowledge that they are critical to the company, and assure them that you’re committed to their safety and wellbeing.

leverage familiar communication

Leverage familiar communication channels.

Let employees know where critical updates will be shared and aim to use channels that are already familiar to them. In some cases, you may need to consider alternate methods like texting. Try to ensure that the communication method doesn’t add unnecessary stress.

We’re all in this together. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to hello@quantumworkplace.com.