Five Intranet Features That Will Make A Difference in a Crisis Like the COVID-19 Pandemic

Whether political unrest, natural disaster, global pandemic (like the current coronavirus/COVID-19 emergency), or some other form of chaos, a crisis can put a business to the test—and offer a unique opportunity to provide real value to your most important asset, your employees. Utilizing these five features of your intranet can make the difference between just riding out a crisis and building a stronger organization.

In the workplace, crises demand that you be agile, quick-thinking, clear-headed, and laser-focused on what needs to be done… all at a time when you may be concerned about your own safety or that of your loved ones. As Heidi K. Gardner and Ivan Matviak note, specifically about the Coronavirus, in the Harvard Business Review, “the increasing uncertainty and anxiety about the personal dangers from the epidemic and its impact on the economy will make the challenge of adjusting to these work changes even greater.”


On top of the usual work, there are additional discussions to be had, processes to be thought through, and decisions to be made. Where did we put that emergency plan? Can we get information out to employees’ mobile devices? Does everyone have remote access to the files they need?  It can be overwhelming. In a crisis like a pandemic, your intranet helps you provide real value to your employees.

In a crisis, your intranet is a priceless asset.

Without clear, frequent, managed communications, your organization will struggle in the face of a major crisis. As my colleague StitchDX President Erick Straghalis has written, “With a modern Digital Workplace, businesses can rapidly engage their workforce with up-to-date information; give them access to business-critical data, documents and information; gather intelligence on the ground to determine if localized action is necessary; and push geographically relevant content to affected parts of the business. Timely response can mean the difference between failure and success in any crisis.”

When a crisis—like the coronavirus outbreak—strikes, your intranet has features that can help your organization manage.

Fortunately, most intranets have some built-in features to help you do just that. While your organization likely uses many of these features already, it’s time to reconsider them in the light of a local or global crisis like our current COVID-19 outbreak. As the center of a well-designed digital workplace, your intranet provides a ready, almost custom-built “situation room.” It’s a natural place for communications during a crisis.

The 5 digital workplace features that will make a difference in a crisis

  1. Alerts – Many organizations have some sort of alert function to notify employees of computer outages, snow days or closures, and reminders of important deadlines or dates. Consider this “sacred ground,” reserved for only the most pressing of announcements created by a designated few. If possible and appropriate, target your alerts to distinct groups so they only display to employees for whom it is relevant. This can improve the impact of the alert for those that need it and decrease general anxiety and confusion for the rest of the organization.
  2. News – For many organizations, the news portion of their intranets are often utilized by corporate communications for presenting high-level strategic and brand messages. While an emergency is no time for that type of messaging, it is also not a time to go silent. The news section is the perfect place for senior leadership to talk directly with employees, reassuring them that there is a plan in place and the organization values its people.
    Barnes & Noble College Intranet screen shot with coronavirus crisis content.

    With a modern intranet you can instantly push critical news and information to employees.

  3. Documents – The last thing you want as an organization is for your employees to feel the frustration of not being able to find the most recent and relevant information they need in the moment Whether it is Work-From-Home instructions and policies, access to health care documents, or a crisis plan, having a clear information architecture and well-structured taxonomy will help employees search for and find the documents they need quickly and efficiently. Links to important and timely documentation can also be included in news articles, added to FAQs and Quicklink lists.
  4. Collaboration – Crisis, such as the current Coronavirus outbreak, that may require employees to work from home or not in the office, can yield to feeling isolated and alone – precisely when people want to feel connected. If an organization can provide the tools and opportunities for employees to work together no matter where they are, disruptions to “office life” are much less…disruptive. If your organization relies on the collaboration tools of the modern digital workplace already, this may be “business as usual.” However, a crisis is an excellent time to remind them of those tools for working collaboratively— it may help facilitate a return to normalcy that many people crave during a crisis.
  5. Social – As important as clear communication from senior leadership is, people also need to hear from their friends and co-workers. Absolutely use the already-established channels on Teams, Yammer, Slack or other tools to engage with employees during a crisis. Ask how they are doing. If people are isolated or stuck in one place, look for ways to spark conversation and connection so people can find comfort in each other.

Building a stronger, more resilient community in times of crisis with your intranet

Crises can bring out the best people and in organizations. Study after study shows people want to have a connection to their place of work, and the stronger and more positive that connection is, the more resilient they are, and the more resilient the organization is. While so much of our time in corporate life is focused, rightfully so, on making smart business decisions and driving profitability for our stakeholders, a crisis is an opportunity to provide a different but intrinsically related type of value for our employees.

If employee experience is the sum of all the experiences an employee has from their first interaction with the employer to their last, then how adeptly an organization handles a crisis can be crucial in this important business metric. When as leaders we are present and proactive, no matter what the crisis, we help our employees, and our organizations, not just survive a crisis but come through stronger and more resilient.  A modern intranet, if utilized with an intelligent strategy incorporating these five features, can be a key factor in building that resilience.