What HR should be communicating to their remote workforce right now

Maintaining good employee communications to a remote workforce during this time of crisis is a key focus for HR. Though what information should those communications cover?

First and foremost, consider what really matters to your employees in this current climate and what they most likely want to hear from you as a business. Remember that anxieties and emotions are likely running high at present, so any information shared with your workforce should be clear, supportive and relevant. Ultimately, so you can manage expectations and help put your employees’ minds at rest.

Whilst the approach to sharing updates with your workforce may vary depending on your organisation and industry, we’ve highlighted 8 essential need-to-knows that HR should be communicating with their employees right now:

1. Information about coronavirus

Amid a great deal of misinformation on the internet related to COVID-19 and its symptoms, businesses have a duty of care to ensure that their employees are armed with the correct facts about coronavirus, drawing from reliable sources such as australia.gov.au and WHO. This may include guidance on what COVID-19 is, the common symptoms, how to minimise the spread and effective hand washing. You could share this by email as a living document or through a company-wide shared online noticeboard.

2. The latest government advice

As the current landscape is changing at a rate of knots, so too is the guidance from the Australian government. From complying with lockdown measures and working remotely where possible to staying safe when going out for essentials; provide reassurance for your workforce by keeping them informed about the changing legislation in the face of the current pandemic, and how they are impacted. If you have a global workforce, be sure to share links to the United Nations or applicable government websites where they can get further information.

3. Impact on the business

The economy has taken a substantial hit in recent weeks causing significant knock-on impacts to job security, with many people being furloughed or made redundant. Even for those still fortunate enough to be in employment, concerns over how this may change in the future are widespread. HR and senior leaders should handle this matter sensitively, whilst being open and transparent with the workforce. A more personal touch will likely be met with a positive response from employees, such as a video update directly from the CEO or Managing Director to communicate the facts, whilst putting minds at rest. This can also be backed by pulse surveys led by HR to gauge how staff are feeling in relation to changes in both the business and the current climate and taking action to support where necessary.

4. Answers to FAQs

Aside from being reassured about the state of the business and job security, it’s understandable that, at this unpredictable time, employees will have a lot of other questions that HR will need to take the lead on answering. Questions related to holidays, remote working, childcare, workload and wellbeing support, training, business continuity, expenses and benefits etc. will be commonplace at this point in time. Consider sending out regular updates to answer some of these questions or updating your FAQs in your HR system and sharing this via your internal communication channels, so employees can find the answers to their questions by self-serving quickly and easily.

5. Your remote working policy

Whether or not you already had a remote working policy in place, now is an ideal time to either create or update that policy, reducing any confusion for your remote workforce by setting out clear guidelines in terms of:

  • Keeping company data safe
  • Employees’ legal rights
  • Expectations for communication and productivity
  • Working hours
  • Equipment use
  • Who employees can go to for support, and more.

6. Advice on how best to work remotely

Having a remote working policy for your employees to read and follow is one thing but supporting them through the unfamiliarity of longer-term remote working can make all the difference. You could consider creating a guide for your workforce that outlines some simple do’s and don’ts of remote working, helping them to maintain a semblance of work-life balance and to stay positive and productive. From correct desk posture to managing distractions at home, think about some of the challenges they may be facing and offer some top tips.

7. Ideas for staying connected

There are plenty of collaboration and communication tools available out there to help keep your workforce connected remotely. Though it’s worth bearing in mind that these tools can assist with maintaining high productivity levels as well as facilitate those all-important informal conversations and general check-ins with employees for wellbeing and morale. Instil a culture of remote working by ensuring your leaders are using the right tools to keep these conversations going. You could even share some guidance on getting the most from video conferencing, such as encouraging teams to turn their cameras on – where employees feel comfortable enough to do so – simulating a more face-to-face experience, and placing suitable rest breaks in between calls from staring at their screens.

8. How are you supporting employee wellbeing?

At a time of high anxiety and increased risks to both physical and mental health, employee wellbeing has reached a pivotal moment. Pulse surveys and daily online check-ins within an HR system are both viable ways to facilitate employee feedback to see how individuals are coping. In addition to this, if you currently have perks and benefits in place to support health and wellbeing in your organisation – such as an Employee Assistance Programme – now is the time to ensure your staff are aware and using them. There are also several free online resources available that you can share with your employees to promote health and wellbeing during this time; giving your employees the support they need to find ways to take care of themselves as best as they can, whilst they are restricted to being at home. These may also include:

  • Workouts, such as the new PE with Joe Wicks morning routines
  • Guided meditation practice, with free sessions offered by Headspace
  • Audiobooks and more, that you can provide links to through internal communications as another way to promote health, motivation and morale.

We hope you’ve gained some valuable tips and ideas on how to best communicate with your widely dispersed employees, helping to instil a positive remote working culture at this difficult time.

Mark Jorgensen
HR Industry Specialist
The Access Group, UK

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