During this unprecedented period of uncertainty and disruption, organizations that implement best practices for business communications during the coronavirus outbreak will be better equipped to adapt to rapidly changing environments - giving them a better chance of surviving the disruption and recovering quicker.
In the past few weeks, there has been a flow of mixed messages about the coronavirus outbreak. Whereas some organizations claim it is “business as usual”, others report “America is shutting down”; and while it is being suggested by some authorities the disruption could take two weeks to resolve, others argue we could be looking at months of disruption rather than weeks - if not longer.
The short-notice implementation of lockdowns, school closures, and social distancing policies has meant organizations have had to quickly adopt to employees working from home, working split shifts, or not working at all - resulting in gaps in productivity, in the supply chain, and in revenues. However, the effects of this disruption can be mitigated by adopting best practices for business communications during the coronavirus outbreak.
Options for Business Communications during the Coronavirus Outbreak
The options for business communication during the coronavirus can vary depending on the location of the organization and - where applicable - the industry it operates in. In some locations, Internet coverage is not as good as others, so communication solutions such as email, collaboration tools, and social media chat groups will not be a viable option. Furthermore, there is no guarantee ISPs will be able to meet bandwidth demands if the coronavirus situation deteriorates significantly.
Organizations that operate in regulated industries may also not have a full range of communication solutions available to them due to laws governing how data is transmitted and where it is stored. Therefore, organizations should base communication strategies during the coronavirus outbreak on solutions with multi-modal messaging capabilities so if one channel fails or is non-compliant, others can take its place.
In this respect, a mass notification system is the perfect multi-modal solution as it enables organizations to communicate with employees, team of employees, or individual employees by SMS text, voice broadcast, email, RSS, and social media. For organizations operating in noisy environments, a mass notification system can integrate with digital signage and public address systems; and - should a non-coronavirus related emergency occur - the platform should be compatible with the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP), the IPAWS-Open system, and WEB-EOC emergency management system.
Best Practices for Using Mass Notification during the Coronavirus Outbreak
Most organizations will already have a communications plan developed to support business continuity during emergencies, but few risk assessments will have considered business disruption at the scale we are witnessing during the coronavirus outbreak. Therefore, the best use of mass notification during the current crisis is to take advantage of its geo-polling capability in order to manage workforces and provide or receive updates from business partners.
The geo-polling capability enables organizations to send a question with a selection of answers to its database of contacts - or a subgroup of contacts - via text, email, and voice message. The question is answered by pressing buttons on the keypad, so the system can be used to contact individuals who have not got Internet-connected smartphones. It is also suitable for use in the event ISPs cannot cope with bandwidth demands.
The way in which organizations can use this capability will vary according to their specific operations and factors such as local lockdowns and travel restrictions. However, for a businesses operating both on-premises and with a remote workforce, the question and answers might look like this:
- Q: Please send an update on your status
- A1: I will be attending work as normal
- A2: I am self-isolating and will work from home
- A3: I have contracted the virus and am too ill to work
Working from the responses, HR and shift managers can then send subsequent questions and answers to manage groups of employees working from home or to fill vacant shifts by soliciting availability. Mass notification can also be used to communicate with business partners in the same way, while customers can also receive status updates from the organization (i.e. regarding goods, services, deliveries, etc.) via a mass notification system by taking advantage of a SMS opt-in/opt-out capability.
Surviving the Disruption and Recovering Quicker with Mass Notification
Earlier this month, Entrepreneur.com published a guide to surviving the disruption and recovering quicker in which it stated “effective communication is key” for every best practice for business during the coronavirus outbreak. The guide recommends organizations collect and share information gathered from credible sources to educate them about the outbreak and ways to avoid it. (You can read more about what, when, and how to communicate with employees about coronavirus in this blog).
Certainly without effective communication, organizations will find it harder to adapt to rapidly changing environments, survive the disruption, and recover quicker from the coronavirus outbreak; and while organizational communication plans may have to be rapidly redesigned due to the impact of the outbreak on an organization's workforce, managing the revised communications plan is less complicated with a comprehensive mass notification solution.
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