Time to Give Your Covid Comms a Booster Shot

By Mark Veverka

Sitrick Offices in Los Angeles

You probably didn’t have a Covid-19 communications plan last March, but you almost certainly have one now.

If you do have a plan, it is likely that it has been changed or tweaked to accommodate the many vicissitudes of this historic pandemic. None of that will change anytime soon as we continue to tackle the many challenges of the virus in the workplace that still lie ahead.

Vaccines have arrived none too soon, but what now? How do you execute that plan? How do you ensure you aren’t missing anything absolutely critical to its success?

Companies and organizations need to start planning for different scenarios regarding roll out of the vaccines and how that will affect day-to-day operations and company policies. Companies will have to start thinking about the tricky balance between privacy, civil liberties, health and safety among its employees.

It won’t be easy, and there isn’t an existing playbook upon which to rely. Will companies be able to require that employees be vaccinated in order to return to the workplace? Will it be possible to provide a work-at-home option for those who don’t want to get vaccinated? Would that option be exploited by employees who want to work at home but otherwise have been required to return to the office? Who gets access to the vaccines and in what order? What about possible shortages?

These are difficult questions that management teams and human resource departments will have to wrangle with throughout the coming months. Once companies start to flesh out their policies regarding vaccines and their impact on returning to the workplace, management needs to also create a plan for communicating details to employees and their families. How companies communicate these policies can be just as important as the policies themselves. Things to consider:

  • Consistency. As with any messaging, sending the same consistent message to all internal audiences is key.
  •  Distribution. Decide what methods are best in which to deliver your vaccination policy messages. By now, companies may have already discovered tactics that have been effective for Covid-related messaging and may as well continue those. If not, they could consider: virtual town halls, personal email messages from top management, webinars and designated web pages.
  •  Cadence. Decide how often the policies need to be communicated or updated to be the most effective. There is such a thing as over-communication
  •  Feedback. Consider the potential risk-benefit of providing mechanisms in which employees can voice concerns about the policies or spotlight personal situations that are impacted by the policies. With such sensitive topics as the safety and well-being of individuals being addressed, it can be helpful for companies to demonstrate they are listening to their employees and taking their words to heart. At the same time, be aware that providing such platforms are not without risk of creating new controversies and dilemmas.

To be sure, the rollout of the vaccines, which has been painfully slow, is critically important to getting the virus under control and allowing our economy to embark on its road to recovery. The roles of business, government and education in that process will be integral to its success. And critical to that success will be making sure that comprehensive and flexible internal communications plans are in place to assure that the policies can effectively resonate with their most important audience: the workforce.

Mark Veverka

Mark Veverka is the head of the San Francisco office of Sitrick And Company. If you have any questions or would like to discuss, drop him a line at: mveverka@sitrick.com