Is Your Digital Workplace Ready For the Global Pandemic – and Beyond? [UPDATED]

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused massive disruptions to daily life. As the world adjusts to “the new normal”, businesses are adapting as well. Many have closed offices forcing millions of employees to work from home. Others have been required to increase production, and maintain distribution channels. Organizations that have invested in a modern Digital Workplace are in better position to ensure their survival––enabling remote workers and keeping employees engaged and educated––in order to ensure business continuity beyond the immediate crisis. Is your Digital Workplace up to the challenge? If not, there’s good news: it’s not too late to fix it.

Magnolia“The first step during any crisis is having a communication plan,” says John Bwarie, Founder and CEO of Stratiscope, an organization that works with businesses, communities and policy makers on disaster resilience and communication strategy. “Organizations that can disseminate clear, fact-based and value-driven communication directly, effectively, and quickly are in a better position to mitigate negative economic consequences.”

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.

The advantage of a Digital Workplace during a crisis

With health events like epidemics or pandemics, there is more time to react and prepare. Earthquakes, fires, floods or acts of terrorism are point-in-time events that tend to have a shorter response window, even if the effects linger for a period of time before recovery can begin.

The Coronavirus Pandemic offered a rare opportunity to prepare for the crisis ahead of the disaster. But as we are learning now, Pandemics also have long-term effects that will last for many months, and possibly years, before vaccine efforts and distribution channels can ramp up. This long-duration impact means that it is not too late to implement targeted and clear communication strategies. These efforts will be just as critical to establish trust, build confidence and ensure operational continuity and organizational resilience for the future.

As the crisis continues to unfold globally, businesses will need to continue to adapt to the inevitable new norms of post-COVID-19 life. By establishing thoughtful, clear communication channels and enabling their workforce to work remotely for an extended period of time, organizations can put themselves in a better position to emerge stronger and better prepared to serve their customers.

3 Objectives for better communication during a crisis

A modern Digital Workplace allows you to reach and connect with employees to provide actionable information that helps them prepare, cope and recover. “Internal corporate communications should empower employees to make informed decisions to protect themselves, their families, and their co-workers,” says Alyson Cobb, Public Health Emergency Specialist for JSI, New Hampshire. “Keeping employees informed is the first step to ensuring safety and decreasing the impact of any disaster on corporate functions.” To make crisis communication most effective, organizations should focus on meeting three objectives:

  1. Safety of your people: The primary objective of every organization during any crisis should be the safety and security of their employees and families first. Reassuring employees that the organization is aware of and working to maintain the health and safety of their people can alleviate worker anxiety and keep them focused on delivering on their objectives.
  2. Business Continuity: Early on, employees will want ready access to policies and status updates. Critical information like work-from-home policies, sick leave policies, and planned closures are a good place to start. Over time, workers, customers and vendors will have questions as well. Finding ways to build two-way conversations will enable the organization to better provide contextually relevant information—for example based on country or region, worker type, business unit, or organizational function.
  3. Mitigating Risk: It is important to keep your workforce informed throughout the crisis—before, during and after—with content that both informs and helps them avoid potentially dangerous situations or activities. Keep communication fact-based and be honest about the risks and potential health-hazards they may face. Under or overreacting generally lead to the worst outcomes. “Communicate often, lean on trusted and verified sources for information—such as the CDC,” says Cobb, “and provide employees with actionable steps they can take.”

Critical capabilities for a Digital Workplace during a disaster:

A digital workplace should provide every worker, from desk employees to remote and field workers, access and information that supports and empowers them. “Today’s organizations frequently have complex structures with many types of employees across multiple locations,” says David Maffei, President of Akumina, an Employee Experience Platform software provider. “Having technology capabilities to keep employees consistently and appropriately informed, along with access to all the tools they need to do their jobs is critical. Especially if the company is suddenly forced to operate with a largely remote workforce.”

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While every organization has different needs, the basics of a Digital Workplace should include at least these factors to provide businesses a critical advantage in weathering the crisis:

  • “Single Pane of Glass” view: Employees need a common view of the situation that provides a single source of content and information for everyone while also differentiating the experience with targeted content specific, and more relevant, to those that might be more affected by the crisis than others.
  • Staying connected: Whether at home, in the office, or on the road, employees should be able to access all the information they need to perform their jobs. One customer, based in Milan, Italy, is currently on a mandatory work-from home lock-down yet can stay engaged with her team and access the content and information she needs, meaning she can continue to work remotely even though this wasn’t planned.
  • Alerts and push notifications: Employees may not be able to actively monitor the intranet or even email during an immediate crisis. The ability to send alerts via the Digital Workplace, trigger push notifications, or send SMS direct to mobile devices is often more reliable.
  • Up-to-the-minute news: In a world where the news cycle is constantly changing, employees expect news to be up-to-date and fresh. This is especially true in situations where facts and information are still emerging during the days and weeks leading up to an event or potential crisis. The ability for workers to stay “in the know” will give them better visibility and improve the credibility of the organization as they prepare for whatever is on the horizon.
  • Localized information: For organizations with a dispersed workforce, the ability to provide targeted, local information is critical. News, contacts, resources, policies and procedures, etc. should reflect the language, culture, and any requirements of the local government and policy makers.
  • Constant engagement: In the early days of an emerging crisis, data and information may not always be reliable. Engaging in two-way communication with your employees and staff in the affected areas can be a more reliable way to get information from the ground and builds a stronger relationship between the organization and the employees.
  • Community building and strengthening: While organizations have a primary responsibility to ensure the safety of their workers and their families, they also have a responsibility to the communities they work in. In times of crises, organizations can encourage their workforce to show leadership in their communities and share those stories internally to create a stronger sense of community within the organization as well. Their stories can also become great opportunities to share how the people of your organization work together to maintain resilience.