[by Howard Fencl, Hennes Communications] We’re all still fully engaged fighting the invisible threat of COVID-19 on every level. We’re trying to keep ourselves from getting it. We’re trying to keep our families safe. And for companies deemed non-essential, we’re trying to conduct some semblance of business while kids, cats and dogs Zoombomb our virtual team meetings.
We’re about to turn an important page in the pandemic story. As COVID-19 cases peak and plateau across the U.S., the federal government has set a goal – start reopening the economy on May 1. Many states have begun planning how to slowly reopen their economies.
This brings up some important questions: What exactly are the reopening plans in the states where your company operates, and how do they differ? What’s your company doing right now to prepare? Who are the audiences you must communicate your plans to, and when should you begin?
As you might expect, these plans vary greatly from state to state and are subject to change, particularly if reopening parts of the economy touches off a second wave of COVID-19 infections. Some examples:
What we do know is that businesses will be expected to prioritize workplace safety for employees, customers, vendors and visitors. That’ll no doubt include rigorous, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols. Face masks may be the new normal for every company dress code. Social distancing will continue to be critical.
We’ll almost certainly be looking at phased-in returns to business in many of our areas. That could include limiting the number of people in a business at any one time or having employee teams alternate working on-site. If you’re running a 24/7 operation, it could also include creative approaches already in place at Proctor & Gamble’s Pennsylvania Charmin factory, where staggered shift changes, employee fever checks, and workplace zone restrictions have succeeded – the plant has been in continuous operation throughout the crisis and has not logged a single positive COVID-19 case among its 2,200 employees.
It’s not too soon to plan your communications as the nation slowly reopens the economy:
In a recent coronavirus briefing, Ohio Gov. DeWine dug up a chestnut Churchill tossed off in World War II that applies to the COVID-19 situation now upon us: “…Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Just as it is critical that organizations continue doing everything in their power to protect the well-being of employees during this next crucial phase, it is critically important to overcommunicate changes your company is undertaking to protect employees and protect the future of your business.