Coronavirus Response: A Company Communications Template
With Coronavirus (COVID 2019) taking over the news, we’ve been getting lots of questions from clients about what they should say to staff. We’ve put together a template to help companies craft their communication. We work largely with NYC tech and media startups so the below template is geared toward that population, but every company is different (and has a different appetite for risk) so this should only be used as a foundation to work from as you customize your own response. We advise all orgs to adjust as makes sense for your size, your PTO and remote work policies, how your business operates, the types of employees you have and where they work, etc.
A Template for Coronavirus Response
(Please edit, customize and use as appropriate.)
We’re committed to the safety and well being of our team, and as part of that the PeopleOps and Leadership teams have been monitoring the spread of coronavirus (COVID-2019). Best practice in these situations is not to panic but to have a plan ready should it be necessary, and to take proactive precautions. We are implementing the following guidelines as a precaution to protect everyone and maintain work continuity as the situation evolves. If you have any questions, please reach out to a member of the PeopleOps or Leadership team.
Keeping Yourself and Others Healthy
The most effective thing any of us can do is wash our hands frequently and avoid touching our eyes, mouth, and nose. We will put up a few reminder posters around the office, but please remember:
When washing your hands, make sure to do it with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds (that’s commonly referred to as two rounds of the happy birthday song, if that’s helpful).
Utilize the hand sanitizer that we have put around the office. This is meant as a supplement to washing your hands, not a replacement. It’s always best to wash your hands thoroughly.
Cough and sneeze in your elbow, not on your hands.
It’s not too late to get your flu shot! This is optional, but highly recommended.
The second most effective thing we can do is to stay home if we are sick. We are expanding our sick and WFH policy to be more flexible right now. This means:
If you are coughing or feel otherwise sick, please alert your manager and plan to work from home. This is to protect your team, as well as make sure you get the rest you need so please don’t try to be a “hero.” If you are too sick to work from home, please take the time off that you need. If you are out of sick days please speak to PeopleOps and we will figure out accommodations.
We are also amping up our office cleanings, including putting disinfectant wipes around the office so it’s easy to wipe down door knobs, handles, and other frequently touched places. Please do so!
Business and Personal Travel
We’re taking our cues from the CDC guidelines for travel. These guidelines are updated frequently, and this policy will follow suit. Currently:
We are cancelling all non-essential business travel to areas listed by the CDC as Level 1 or 2 and keeping careful watch on travel to Level 3 areas. If you need to travel to a Level 1 or 2 area you will be asked to work from home for 14 days post-travel. If you need to travel to a Level 3 area we are following CDC guidelines and asking you to stay away from anyone exhibiting illness, to wash your hands, and to track your own health for 14 days post-travel. We realize not everyone can work from home; if that is true for you please speak to your manager and a member of PeopleOps so we can help you figure out what to do given your specific circumstances.
If you have a work-related trip planned and you are uncomfortable traveling please speak to a member of PeopleOps so we can make alternate plans/accommodations. If you are required to travel for work and are not allowed to return home for some reason, the company will support you to the extent possible, including allowing you to work remotely, covering living expenses, and giving paid time off if you are unable to work remotely.
If you are planning any personal travel please let a member of the PeopleOps team know. Any staff member planning to visit a Level 1 or 2 area will be asked to work from home for 14 days post-return. Anyone visiting a Level 3 area will be asked to be diligent about avoiding sick people and washing their hands, and to closely monitor their health upon return. Please note that if you travel for personal reasons and are unable to return home/to work the company will do its best to accomodate you working remotely but will not be able to cover any costs or time off beyond your accrued vacation days.
We will be asking any guests coming into the office if they have traveled to a Level 1 or 2 area in the past month, or come into contact with anyone who has. If they have, we will shift the meeting to be conducted remotely.
If you have a guest coming to the office that is not being handled through PeopleOps or Leadership, please make sure to follow the above guidelines.
Preparing To Be Fully Distributed
The CDC has advised businesses to make a plan in case it is necessary for all employees to work from home. PeopleOps and the Leadership team are currently making preparations for this and we will update everyone as makes sense. We’re doing this not because we expect it to be necessary, but because we want to be ready and have a seamless transition if needed.
As part of our planning we may come speak with some of you to find out what tools you need to do your work. If you have any thoughts please let a member of PeopleOps know so we can include them in our plans.
For additional information on COVID-19, visit these sites:
Your health and safety is most important to us. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and send out additional guidance as needed. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to anyone on the Leadership or PeopleOps teams.
This is an ongoing and developing situation and no one knows all the answers. We are hearing many questions about the legality of mandatory screening, or requirements for temporary remote work, if it’s ok to ask employees to conduct business travel, and how to manage reductions in pay for hourly staff. We strongly recommend discussing the specifics of your company’s challenges with your employment counsel, as the right answers will vary in different locations, businesses and situations.
We hope this template is helpful to you. We know everything is moving quickly so we advise everyone to stay informed, stay flexible, and stay empathetic. Aside from the general news, there’s also a lot of crowdsourced information available about what different companies are doing as a response, which may be helpful.