Across the country we’re beginning to see various industries reopening after three months of shutdown, and with uncertainty looming, employees and consumers alike are figuring out what work and life will look like in the wake of COVID-19.
For employers, this time is not only about reopening your business operations; it’s about re-engaging your employees who have likely become disconnected from your organization’s culture and community. There are very real physical and mental side effects of living and working under quarantine for this long, and your communication strategy needs to address them.
Foundational to this strategy is identifying and overcoming the unique barriers and cognitive biases brought on by the pandemic. When you prioritize this work, your communications can help your team feel safe returning to the office, prevent opportunities for presenteeism (when employees are physically present but unproductive due to illness or other circumstances), and ultimately, maintain high productivity.
Accessible Mental Health Resources
According to Gallup Panel, about 51 million more adults in the U.S. were suffering significant worry in late March/early April than were experiencing the same emotion back in August/September. While these results have improved slightly, they remain much higher than pre-COVID levels.
In response to the pandemic’s negative impact on the mental health of communities worldwide, you need to ensure your employees understand how to access resources for their mental health and well-being, whether they are returning to the office or working remotely.
Historically, options like employee assistance programs (EAPs) have been underutilized; the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shared that EAP utilization averages below 10%.
Often, employers share limited information about EAPs because employees don’t need to re-elect these programs as part of annual enrollment. In fact, according to Unum, 55% of employees said their employer did not have, or they were unsure whether their employer had, a specific program, initiative, or policy in place to address mental health.
There’s less precedent for employer communications and action around mental health compared to chronic conditions and wellness, but COVID-19 has changed that. Mental health should be your top focus, as the pandemic has likely led to your employees experiencing some of the highest stress points in their lives. They need to know they have options for managing this stress and that their employer cares about their overall wellbeing and not just their job performance.
This often involves a cultural shift within your organization in how you approach mental health conversations. Lead with empathy and use personalized communication to encourage your employees to prioritize self-care. When your employees can take care of their mental health, they’re more likely to be focused, present, and engaged with their work – which can only mean good things for your business.
Reduce Care Barriers for Your Team
Your employees also need the right tools to remain physically healthy during the re-opening phase of the COVID-19 crisis. Preventive care was put on hold by health systems and patients alike during the pandemic, but it should now be prioritized. Empower your employees to take the necessary preventive action for improving their health over the long run.
Now, there are two avenues for seeking care: in person and via virtual care settings. Your employees may require in-person care, such as an elective procedure that was postponed; encourage them to return to the healthcare system and provide information and resources to help them feel safe about this return – just as with their return to your office. Additionally, with virtual care taking center stage during COVID-19, your employees need to know there are telehealth options for addressing their needs.
According to a 2019 J.D. Power survey, 65% of telehealth users used the service because of a positive recommendation from others. Yet only 18% of that group received this recommendation from their employer. There are several methods for disseminating messages about the benefits of telehealth (email, intranet site, virtual info sessions, etc.), but how you create the messages is just as important.
On a recent episode of the Behavior Change Podcast, Lirio’s Senior Director of Behavioral Design, Greg Stielstra shared several behavioral insights to leverage in your communications to employees.
Your telehealth strategy for employee communications can be infused with a number of behavioral science principles:
• Because people tend to prefer the way things are and fear change, you can leverage this status quo bias to inform your language. Try using common terms like “travel-free doctor’s visits” instead of “telehealth,” which is new and unfamiliar to those not in the healthcare space.
• Use the mere exposure effect to bring the telehealth experience to your employees, rather than asking them to visit a vendor’s website. Showing them images of a typical virtual care interaction can help them know what to expect and minimize confusion.
Ultimately, your communications should meet people where they are with empathetic, context-sensitive messages. By taking this approach, you can help your employees clearly understand the steps they need to take to re-engage with their health so they can realize better, long-term outcomes.
A Closer Look at Healthcare Employees
Hospitals and health systems are in a unique (and very difficult) position when it comes to re-engagement following COVID-19. Not only must these organizations re-engage patients who are hesitant to seek care right now, but they must ensure employees feel cared for and comfortable at work — whether returning after furloughs or continuing to deliver care after working on the front lines of the crisis.
A Gallup Panel survey conducted April 13-May 14, 2020 revealed that just 47% of healthcare workers strongly agree their employer has communicated a clear plan of action. Gallup consultants shared that much of this communication comes down to expectation-setting, as “growing uncertainty can hinder their workplace environment — creating performance losses that undercut even flawless surge plans.”
The messages you send about these expectations should incorporate behavioral science principles to ensure your employees don’t miss any key information. For example, structure them by salience, which determines what will most likely grab attention and influence perception. The size, position, and context of your content all impact what people will see and retain in your communications.
Lirio Helps You Re-Engage Your Employees
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Lirio has been working with employers, including hospitals and health systems, to re-engage employees. Through our behavior change AI platform, we can create hyper-personalized communications that will move your team members to take action for improving their health. We can also deploy these messages at scale to meet growing needs. Here’s how it works:
• Our behavioral scientists diagnose barriers to employee re-engagement and design communications to drive engagement with mental health resources and virtual care options.
• We apply the communications to your existing channels and tailor them according to your processes and priorities surrounding employee health and safety.
• Our platform leverages these behavioral science strategies with artificial intelligence to quickly process data streams about your employees, process their actions, iterate, improve, and repeat this indefinitely for hyper-personalized experiences.
• We scale what behavioral scientists do on a one-on-one basis to elicit actions to re-engage your employees and improve health outcomes.
To learn more about how we support employee re-engagement, listen to a replay of our recent webinar: “How to Make Employee Communications More Effective During COVID-19.” Or, contact our team for more information.
Want to learn more about how Lirio’s behavioral engagement solution utilizes behavioral science and machine learning to help organizations motivate the people they serve to achieve better outcomes?