Coronavirus and Beyond: Communicating with Remote Employees During COVID-19

April 7, 2020

Now more than ever, employees are looking for health and well-being support from their employers. As COVID-19 spreads increasingly across the globe and throughout the United States, employees are wanting more information. They’re living with uncertainty. Employers and HR need to be agile and responsive. As you adjust your management style, communicating with remote employees just became significantly more important.

Employers are using traditional and non-traditional methods to reach employees about COVID-19. With many employees working from home, the most common and best methods for communicating with remote employees include:

Internal newsletters

The foremost benefit of having an internal newsletter is that it keeps everyone in the loop. For smaller companies, this may not pose much of a challenge, but for large companies, an internal newsletter can help spread news and updates to all employees. Employees who feel a sense of inclusion at work are more likely to go above and beyond. Sharing the latest developments with all employees will help avoid situations where someone is left out.

Monthly Company-Wide Meetings

All-hands meetings provide you with a unique opportunity to keep all your team members in the picture of everything that is business-related. Your all-company meetings allow you to get your employees aligned on the company goals. It also allows you to Celebrate people and uplift team spirit.

 

Beyond communicating about remote work and travel guidelines, employers are providing details about their benefits and well-being programs. Any tools and resources to support employees and their families so they can be physically, emotionally, and financially healthy, as well as socially connected are essential right now. Communicating about benefits reminds employees of the “need to know” information such as what resources are available and where to turn for help. There’s an opportunity to build trust with employees, too.

Top benefits and well-being programs to communicate right now include:

Medical plan coverage, including COVID-19 testing being covered at 100%

While not yet currently required (as of publication date), plan sponsors of self-insured group plans may voluntarily decide to cover COVID-19 testing on a first-dollar basis. If you are offering first-dollar coverage for testing, clearly communicate with your workforce so they have reassurance in the event they or a covered family member are ill and need to be tested. Beyond testing, this is a good time to remind employees of their medical benefits, and how to find information and access these benefits.

Telehealth/telemedicine coverage or discounts

Telehealth—also known as telemedicine—offers individuals nationwide access to a doctor licensed in their state who can speak with them and diagnose many conditions via video chat or telephone. In addition, telehealth often comes with a lower cost than a traditional doctor’s office or urgent care visit.

When an employee’s medical situation is not urgent, telehealth is a convenient way to help reduce individual risk and allow access to care from home, without having to set foot in a doctor’s office. And if the employee isn’t sure if their situation is appropriate for telehealth, the initial screening questions will help direct if they should schedule an in-person visit with their physician.

Telehealth is especially helpful in reducing the spread of COVID-19 as people seeking treatment for other conditions can reduce exposure by avoiding a visit to a medical facility.

Employers can use this time to build understanding and promote the usage of their telehealth benefits. Many employers or their medical insurance carriers offer telehealth programs as a reduced or no cost.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and other emotional well-being programs

Whether or not an employee or family member is sick, COVID-19 is creating widespread anxiety and confusion. Many employers offer mental health resources, and now is the time to continue to communicate the availability and support available through an EAP or other emotional well-being program. EAPs offer 24/7 access to qualified resources who can help employees and family members, and can help these individuals access local qualified resources for mental health or substance abuse needs. Virtual sessions with a licensed therapist through telebehavioral health services may also be available through your telehealth provider.

Prevention tips on how to stay healthy

As you continue to communicate with remote employees about the benefits available to them, also remember to educate employees about the importance of handwashing, social distancing, preparing for the unexpected, and more. Employers can share what they are doing to support employee safety, as well as direct employees to reputable resources such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Financial well-being tools and resources

Recent financial market volatility, with significant declines, may also increase employee anxiety. Employees with a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k), may require specific messaging – for example, reinforcing that retirement saving is a long-term strategy over a career or, reminding of other programs that offer income protection. Consider promoting any financial well-being programs or resources available to employees.

Many employers are considering how to communicate with employees about potential COVID-19 exposures in the workplace. Employers are actively working to avoid such exposure; closures, decreasing or eliminating visitors and travel, and excluding sick or at-risk employees. Most businesses have already resorted to having their employees work from home to keep business operational.

Employers can earn the trust of their remote employees through timely and accurate communication about such exposures when or if they occur, including accurately expressing any uncertainty. Those who are exposed can take quick action to decrease any risk to their families and coworkers, and it will be difficult to regain employer trust if employees feel that the initial communication was inappropriately delayed.

This is the time to improve how you are communicating with remote employees. By communicating regularly and often, your employees will appreciate the information and support.

 

Netchex remains fully operational through this unprecedented time. Our staff is hard at work for businesses like yours that are working diligently to remain in operation, adapt their policies, and ensure the safety of their employees. Netchex is here to help you accomplish all of this and more. Please visit our continually updating library of coronavirus resources.


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