How to empower your frontline staff during the COVID-19 crisis

April 9, 2020

Key steps for any business or practice.

With the COVID-19 outbreak running wild across the globe, the healthcare system is poised to face the kind of life-and-death decisions that industrialized countries typically face only in times of war and natural disaster. During this period of crisis, organizations are developing their contingency plans, with some starting from scratch and others updating their existing plans to get through this once in a lifetime scenario.

 

As it is currently unclear when the COVID-19 pandemic will be over, for all companies, the safety of workers is the first priority. While some people can work from home, not all industries can afford to do so. A study by PewResearch concludes that only 3 percent of businesses in the healthcare sector have access to telework. 

Here are some key steps any business can take to empower their front line staff during the COVID-19 crisis:

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1. Create a dedicated crisis team

Get a dedicated crisis team up and running as soon as you can. A crisis like COVID-19 affects every part and every level of your business. Ensure your dedicated team is made up of people from every hierarchical level. This will ensure no department or worker feels ‘left out’ and smooth out communication across all areas of your business.

From there on, categorize your crisis team members into 3 key channels, according to their skills:

Communications and Public Relations

  • This team has for main responsibility the delivery of the company’s messages.

  • Actively ensure the right message is transmitted to the right person.

  • Handle your company’s reputation in both traditional and digital media

  • Respond to customer queries and redirect them where need

 

Legal and regulatory

  • This team ensures your company is legally covered on every aspect.

  • Must audit your organization’s risk exposure during the crisis

  • Should be able to list down all your company liabilities towards all stakeholders

  • Advise accordingly on appropriate responses

 

Operational response team

  • This team ensures the ‘routine’ operations are smooth

  • Generally are the closer to the front line workers

  • Assess whether your business goals are feasible during the crisis

  • Help adjust your business objectives and manage expectations

 

2. Enforce a safe and positive work culture

During the current COVID-19 crisis, it is essential that your staff are in the safest workplace conditions possible. Here are some simple, but highly effective ways to maintain a safe working place:

Make sure your workplaces are clean and hygienic

Contamination via different surfaces touched by people is one of the main ways COVID-19 spreads. All surfaces that are in direct contact with your staff and customers (such as desks, tables, telephones, keyboards, etc.), need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly. 

Encourage regular hand-washing by employees, contractors and customers

Regularly washing your hands is highly recommended by the World Health Organization. Place hand sanitizing dispensers in prominent areas around the workplace and ensure they are regularly filled. Liaise with your communication team to spread the word around about these measures.

Supporting those who may feel emotionally distressed is essential in this time of crisis. Your staff’s ability to function ‘normally’ is highly likely to be compromised in the current situation. Helping your staff cope with the psychological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will reduce burnout and potentially encourage their usual productive habits.

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3. Connect all your employees

Connecting all your employees with the use of digital apps is the way forward. This will help you manage and communicate to all you staff from one single place-be it frontliners or those working from home. For instance, Microsoft Teams has hit a new record high of 44 million active users, as remote work continues to surge worldwide. 

It is also good practice to use an employee scheduling software, which will save you hours and allow you to schedule the right staff, at the right times, across different roles. Used wisely, connected apps can hold your team together, regardless of a state of crisis or not. Holding regular meetings online might help to get into a healthy ‘online routine’. 

Also, encourage all your employees to voice out their issues or concerns related to any app you may be using. Do not hesitate to initiate online training sessions with those who may have a hard time adopting this shift to technology. Most connected apps have intensive training resources that can be accessed free of charge.

The way that you handle your organization and treat your employees during the COVID-19 crisis may shape your company culture for the next decade. Empowering your staff during this outbreak starts with the steps above. No one knows when or how the current pandemic will end but one thing is certain: after this episode, most companies will want to be prepared for whatever comes next.

Derek Jones spearheads key initiatives at Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, timesheets and communication.  With a focus on Emerging Retail, Derek helps business owners and workforce leaders simplify employment law compliance, keep labor cost in line and build award-winning workplaces. Derek has over 16 years’ experience in delivering data-driven sales and marketing strategies to SaaS companies like MarketSource and Griswold Home Care.