The 2019-Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization. Now in its second year, there have been more than 183 million confirmed cases and the pandemic is responsible for almost four million deaths around the world (as of the beginning of July 2021).
As we have seen, there have been enormous economic implications of the virus being felt around the world, with travel restrictions, quarantine, fear, uncertainty, constantly changing conditions and panic causing disruption to many businesses in areas that have been affected.
According to the World Economic Forum, “panic spreads faster than pandemics” with misinformation on social media platforms posing a challenge for authorities, as incorrect information can reach more people than advice from experts.
For internal communicators, this highlights the need for open, honest, and ongoing communication with your employees via workplace health promotion programs about the spread of the virus and its impact on your business operations as the world grapples with the pandemic.
Workplace health promotion refers to the way in which employers, employees and health authorities can work together to improve the overall health and wellbeing of the workforce by using the workplace as the medium to funnel the information. The overall goal is to reduce chronic disease and ensure your employees have good health.
If your company adopts a workplace health promotion program it will need a set of policies, benefits, programs and other supports to meet the health and safety needs of your employees.
It can include both occupational health and safety topics as well as other issues that are of concern to employees in terms of their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Workplace health promotion might include things like free or subsidized access to health services for employees and their families, as well as preventative programs (for example weight loss, smoking cessation programs) and general information campaigns on health-related topics.
Why workplace health promotion programs are important for business
Most adults spend around a third of their lives at work. The World Health Organization has recognized that workplaces have a significant role to play in promoting health and wellbeing to employees.
In general, workplace health promotion helps to foster a healthy workplace where employees work in a supportive environment with favorable social conditions. This, in turn, helps them build on their own personal skills and resilience, as well as building the organization’s resilience.
Workplace health promotion programs make good business sense. It helps to improve levels of employee engagement and the associated benefits that come with that including increased productivity, lower levels of absenteeism and presenteeism, more motivated staff with higher morale and lower levels of staff turnover.
Coronavirus is no exception to these principals of workplace health promotion. The added benefit of communicating regularly with employees about the virus and its impacts is that you can also stop misinformation from spreading and control the message internally.
If your organization is lucky enough to not be affected by the Coronavirus in any way currently, you shouldn’t rest on your laurels when it comes to work health promotion. Preparedness is the key: leaving it until its too late is always a recipe for disaster.
The impacts of the Coronavirus are likely to continue for many more months to come, and we may not even have seen the worst of it yet. If your business isn’t already prepared for the effects of the virus to be felt on business continuity and the health and welfare of your employees, it’s time to take stock and put proactive strategies in place to mitigate any ongoing workplace health management issues.
Also remember that employees will not just be concerned about their own health and wellbeing and that of their colleagues, they’ll also be worried about the business’ ongoing viability and whether they will still have a job once the virus situation is over. You need to be communicating about business continuity and the plans and protocols you have in place to protect your economic and financial interests.
When there is a health crisis, your organization needs an effective internal communication system to quickly and easily keep your employees updated with the correct information. DeskAlerts is a cost-effective internal communications software solution that Human Resources and Internal Communications departments can rely on to send messages quickly to employees using a variety of tools and channels. This includes alert notifications, desktop tickers, digital signage, corporate wallpapers, corporate screensavers and more. Provide your employees with the information you need them to know.
Workplace health promotion programs should:
Involve a clear, easy to follow strategy stating your goals and objectives.
Be tailored to respond to a range of potential scenarios where the virus could affect your workplace.
Include clear key messages that you want staff to understand.
Contain answers to frequently asked questions.
Be distributed to staff in a timely manner.
Be distributed to staff using a variety of internal communication strategies to be effective.
A workplace health promotion program will result in a coordinated approach to health and wellbeing in your organization. This approach looks at different risk factors and health conditions that might be of concern to your workforce demographic. It also requires putting effective strategies in place that can influence positive outcomes in the health and wellbeing sphere.
When it comes to building a workplace health promotion program in your organization, there are several steps you should take:
1. Assess the current health status and needs of your organization
Every organization is different. It’s important that your workplace health promotion program is designed to specifically target your employee demographics, the physical working conditions of your workplace(s) and other factors that influence overall health and wellbeing such as lifestyle. It’s also important to include the types of health and wellbeing factors that employees feel should be a priority.
You can survey your workforce to help determine what these factors may be using the employee survey tool.
2. Set the scope of your workplace health promotion program
In a large organization, the health needs and specific health issues among your workforce will be wide and varied. Recognizing that you cannot solve or relieve every specific ailment that might afflict a member of your team is important.
Workplace health promotion programs are broader in their objectives, so when you embark upon establishing one in your company you need to set the scope for what is in and what is out.
To help guide you in this, determine what the goals and expectations of the program are. What are you trying to achieve? Is it to reduce absenteeism? Is it to reduce turnover? Is it to increase productivity? Clearly set out your objectives and put action items beside them that are strategic, measurable, achievable, and timely.
3. Get support from management
To help ensure the success of a workplace health promotion program, it’s important that there is buy-in from your leadership team. Not only do you need management support for financial reasons, but it can also help your program to gain traction across the organization.
To gain management support, you will most likely need to help them understand the value of investing in such a program and how it can ultimately affect the business’ bottom line – for the better.
4. Determine your budget
Most workplace health promotion programs require funding to succeed. If you don’t have money, many facets of the program will not be delivered, and the program will falter.
In determining the budget, you should clearly set out the costs of the workplace health promotion program. This includes any incentives, provider fees, promotional products and equipment needed to deliver the program. It should also include the labor cost, such as the amount of time the HR team spends on administering and delivering the program.
5. Determine the components of the program
Determining what to include in your workplace health promotion program will again reflect your business’s individual needs and requirements. Health promotion programs can be as simple or as complex as you need them to be. Some of the common types of components typically included in workplace health promotion programs are:
Quit smoking programs
Employee assistance programs
Stress reduction programs
Weight loss programs
Competitive gamification initiatives
6. Communicate about the program
Once you’ve determined what you will offer employees in terms of a health and wellbeing program, it’s essential that you communicate it widely with your employees. This includes communicating the reasons for the program, any policies, the aspects that make up the program and information and advice on how employees can participate in the program.
As with any major initiative, an ongoing communications campaign may be necessary, informing employees about the program and aspects of it to ensure that they know about it and drive participation rates. Without effective promotion, your program could fail if nobody takes part.
When you invest time and money into a major initiative, it’s essential to evaluate its effectiveness. This will help you determine if this can be sustainable in the long term or if you need to revise and implement different types of components to the program.
5 tips for workplace health promotion programs for internal communicators
Coronavirus is not the first, and sadly won’t be the last, health risk that businesses must contend with. There have been many over the years. Communication is key to successfully managing these issues.
1. Give clear instructions about stopping the spread of infection
Even if none of your employees have been affected by the illness yet, being vigilant and practicing good health and hygiene is key. Make signage that outlines steps employees should follow around symptoms such as sneezing and coughing, reminders to wash hands and use hand sanitizer, wear masks if appropriate and so on. These should be placed in bathrooms, kitchens, break rooms and anywhere else they will be seen by employees.
Use digital screens within your organization to reinforce these messages and deploy corporate wallpapers or screensavers with these reminders that reach people at their workstations.
Ensure you have information on your intranet site about policies and procedures and the tools available for health and safety.
2. Send reliable advice about travel and quarantine restrictions
The situation is constantly changing and this is likely for some time to come. Monitor official government advice and other trusted sources and update your employees as soon as anything changes. It is best they hear it from the company rather than misinformation from social media.
Be equally wary of sending advice that has been sourced via the rumor mill or a fake news site. Send pop up alerts to desktops, smartphones and tablets with appropriate advice, such as whether it is safe to travel to a particular city or country.
3. Alert employees if there is an immediate threat
If a member of staff has contracted the virus, or has been exposed to the virus and needs to be quarantined, you will need to alert any employees that staff member has been in contact with so they can take appropriate precautions. This might include going into quarantine themselves.
Similarly, you may learn that a client, customer or contractor that has been in contact with your employees has been affected by the virus.
Send clear, factual communications about what has happened and what steps you would like your employees to take. You should send this information out in a timely manner before rumors can and panic take hold. Also, expect that any internal messaging could become external if someone posts it on social media or provides it to a news outlet, so it needs to be worded in a way you are comfortable with the whole world seeing – and this includes taking into account privacy issues and privacy laws where you live.
4. Allow for localized internal communications
If you work in an organization with a diverse workforce, you’ll already know that what happens in one city or country doesn’t always happen in another. The Coronavirus is no exception: you may have employees in a city that is severely impacted while the rest of your workforce is not. Tailored communications to targeted audiences should be key to your workplace health promotion programs around this issue. This might even mean that you override or relax some of your existing internal communications protocols and allow local management to communicate with their employees and give them the tools to do so.
5. Quiz employees on their knowledge and preparedness
To reinforce your corporate health promotion efforts, send an interactive quiz to your employees testing their knowledge of what health practises they should follow and what they need to do in the event of an outbreak. You can even test their knowledge of which sources of information they should trust. If it transpires that your employees’ knowledge is quite terrible you can revise your internal communications workplace health promotion efforts and try other strategies.
Why workplace health promotion programs are successful
Workplace health promotions have positive outcomes for businesses, often delivering a high return on investment. These include:
1. They improve productivity
There are a number of health-related reasons why productivity might be affected in the workplace. This can include employees taking breaks to smoke cigarettes, stressed employees being tired all the time, unhealthy lifestyles or their overall health is not good. By putting workplace health promotion programs in place, the effects of these health issues can be negated and productivity improved.
A 2005 study by Australian insurance company Medibank Private found that healthy workers are almost three times more important than workers who have poor health.
2. They can improve employee retention rates
A Workforce study found that 87% of people consider health and wellness initiatives when they consider working for an employer.
Desirable benefits that improve your employees’ quality of life can set your company apart from your competitors, meaning that not only can you attract the best talent in your industry, but you’re also more likely to keep them as well.
3. They help with morale
Quite simply, when you invest in workplace health promotion programs, you are showing your employees that you value them. Employees who feel valued are often more engaged. This helps to contribute to greater morale across the organization – making your employees enjoy attesting to the workplace.
A healthy, engaged workforce and a safe working environment are important if you want your company to succeed, meet its business objectives, and enjoy ongoing success.