With the rise of social distancing measures, and to ensure your workforce’s health, employers have team of dozens or even hundreds (or thousands) of employees working from home right now. This change to a home-based employee lifestyle has some HR managers scrambling to ensure timely and informative communications. From telling staff about new work policies to communicating vital health insurance information, how can organizations ensure they are effectively communicating with their remote staff?
Be Mindful of Employees’ Emotions & Stress Levels
The home conditions for your remote employees might include distractions from home schooled children, limited time to focus during the regular workday, or even taking care of family members who are sick. Instead of adding to their stress, find ways to adjust your communications to help ease their worries.
- Adjust tone and limit urgency. Deadlines are important but understanding employees are working through unprecedented conditions is key. Read through the language in communications and ask yourself, “Is this going to best relay the information I need to send, or just make them want to delete it or not open future emails from me?”
- Keep communications short and to the point. Don’t include a page of dialogue when a few bullet points will do.
- If action truly is needed, use other ways of communication that can reach them directly. Try reaching out and calling, Slacking, or even texting an employee “in person” rather than waiting for them to read something in their inbox or via the mail. We all crave personal contact right now, and having a talk with a real person (not an email relay) can reassure them that you’re all in this together. If you also discover that the employee is overly stressed, you can help support them by referring them to mental health support through your health services, or other available resources in your area.
Use Customized Benefits Communications to Relay Important Info
There are lots of employee status changes that could affect your workforce at this time. Some could be furloughed, taking time off through FMLA or even a permanent staff reduction. You’ll need to be able to effectively share important benefits and employee information in a safe, secure manner. Communications should be in compliance with personal information protection rules, including HIPAA.
One safe method is to use a secure online portal to communicate with employees. There are free and paid resources that are available through your benefits program right now. They range in style and complexity, but even the most basic communications portals provide HR departments many ways to provide secure and compliant information to employees.
Talk to your internal team on what they feel comfortable implementing at this time what’s best in your current benefits plan options and HR and IT team’s capabilities.
Protecting Sick, Furloughed or Laid Off Employees
It can be a scary time for employees who are out sick with COVID-19 illnesses or who are looking to ensure their healthcare coverage after a layoff. The federal government provides some initial resources:
- Q&A on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
- Information on the Health Insurance Marketplace and enrollment for recently laid off workers who qualify for a special enrollment period.
- Details on FMLA and COVID-19 protections from the Department of Labor.
- Advice on how employers in different states must abide by their local FMLA laws, depending on location.
There are also employee benefits that you might be able to control, such as:
- COBRA insurance, which can be subsidized all or in part by an employer.
- Non-COBRA benefits, such as life insurance and disability insurance.
- Healthcare premium payments from furloughed or laid off employees.
- Converting group policies to an individual policy in the event of a business closure.
Learn more about what your plan provides and how you can adjust costs for your new working conditions. You can best help your employees by being there for them now, and in the future.