The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 will certainly be seen as one of the defining crises of the 21st century. It has and will continue to have a massive impact on the health of citizens across the globe, but it’s also changed the workplace well beyond pushing the idea of “work from home” to new limits.

But not everyone can work from home, nor is everyone sitting in front of a computer all day. Even in a pandemic, essential services like hospitals, grocery stores, utility provider sand many others require employees to be on the job, at the office, on the factory floor, and—as we slowly reopen the economy—back on the retail sales floor. Even if they cannot be in front of a computer all day, these folks all need to know what’s going on too.

The need to know what’s happening is arguably never more important than during a crisis –even if that crisis isn’t a global pandemic.Whether it’s a fire, a weather emergency, or some other unexpected event, employees need to be informed about what’s happening and what they’re expected to do. Uninformed employees are almost always less productive. However, in a crisis, they may also be less safe and less able to protect one another and the customers they serve.

Let’s look at a few of the most important types of employee communications needed during a crisis and how workplace digital signage can help ensure they are delivered in a timely way to everyone.

What corporate communications accomplish in a crisis (and how)

Everyday corporate communications have to continue during a crisis, of course. These are necessary for business continuity, but they also provide a semblance of normalcy. The worst thing an organization can do, however, is to pretend the crisis isn’t the elephant in the room.

Avoiding honesty about the situation can come across as disingenuous, thus breeding distrust and even fear.

According to the Harvard Business Review, leaders that communicate with urgency, transparency, and empathy help employees adjust to the constantly changing and often stressful conditions crises bring. Such communication should be frequent, encourage feedback, openly address topics like job security, and show there is a plan for the future. But what types of information do you communicate and how do they accomplish these goals?

  • Ensure/assure employees of your awareness and to stay calm. While every crisis is different, the subject should be treated as openly as possible. By being open, your employees can stay calm, knowing that you are keeping abreast of the situation and that you intend to keep them informed, too.
  • Let them know what the company is doing—and what they are expected to. Clearly communicate the steps the company is taking to address the situation—whether it is evacuating a building, sending employees home, whatever action is being taken. Further, let workers know what actions they must do to comply, for their own safety and that of their customers and coworkers.
  • Tell them what to expect next and when they will get updates. Knowing what’s happening right now is great, but we humans tend to worry about the future. If you know you’ll be announcing next steps, let workers know when to expect to hear from you next.
  • Reinforce employee trust. In a crisis, employees worry not only about their safety, but about the future of their jobs and families. Reiterate the company’s values, its commitment to them, and that the company has a plan to deal with the crisis and take care of them. If possible, share details of that plan. Just be honest and avoid making promises or empty assurances.
  • Avoid the spread of misinformation, supposition, fear and doubt. Perhaps the worst enemies in a crisis are fear, uncertainty and doubt. In the absence (or untimeliness)of communications like the above, the mind starts trying to fill in the gaps. Before you know it, all sorts of rumors and other misinformation are spreading. Being open, honest and timely with your information can deflect this before it starts.

Digital signage can reach workers when traditional communications can’t.

But there’s a problem. In many workplaces, continuous and timely communication with employees is difficult in the best of times, much less during a crisis.

Today’s companies often rely on channels like email, newsletters, and mobile apps to provide regular communications. In industries like manufacturing, retail and even healthcare, however, many employees are “deskless” and may be discouraged from using personal mobile devices while on the job. In fact, 83% of non-desk workers don’t even have a corporate email address, and 45% have no access to the corporate intranet while at work. This renders traditional communication channels almost totally unreliable during a crisis—when reaching employees in a timely way is crucial for both their safety and the business operations.

Digital signage is the ideal medium for providing timely communications during a crisis, especially for employees who have little or no access to such channels. Digital signage reaches employees wherever they are—on the sales floor, the break room, the assembly line. And it can be hands free so that care providers, assembly workers, or others don’t have to stop what they are doing to fumble with personal devices. Finally, digital displays can be located anywhere and messages can be updated almost instantly, helping to ensure people receive the information they need, when they need it most.

During a fire, a robbery or even a pandemic, your employees need timely instructions, certainties and assurances. Without them, the workplace can become chaotic, unproductive, or worst of all, unsafe. Using workplace digital signage for internal employee communications, you can deliver a continuous flow of the information they need to remain calm, predictable and productive. We’ve created a new eBook to explain how companies can leverage digital signage to improve corporate communications in situations like these.

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