If you believe the astrologers, when Mercury is in retrograde communication becomes more complicated. That's because the Greek god Mercury was the boss of communication (and transportation) and when he goes in reverse, things are bound to get a little wonky.

We're in the first retrograde of the year at a really inopportune time. With COVID-19 bearing down on the U.S., clear, concise and effective communication is vital.

Communicating about COVID-19

If you're writing content for employee communications or your clients about flu season or COVID-19, your job is to share information, not spread panic.

As our medical director, retired ER physician Ben Hippen, told me, what gets out of hand in an emergency is constant chatter that stresses people out. Keep communiqués to a minimum and deliver only actionable information that:

  • Uses plain language. Explain the complicated terms and complex concepts you need to convey. Get more tips for using plain language.
  • Is concise. Make it easy for people to get the message by keeping it short. That doesn't mean leaving out crucial details. Rather, it means choosing the right details to support your main idea and using vocabulary that tells the story efficiently. Check out these easy-to-implement strategies for improving concision.
  • Links to trusted sources. This enables your audience to get more details if they want them and builds trust in your content for those who simply hover over the link. Learn more about how to increase relevance and trust with content.
  • Is cautious and responsible. Consider having a public health or medical professional review your work before sharing — like I did with Dr. H. It adds a little time to your workflow, but health and wellness are too important to mess around with.

Planning for COVID-19

It may become necessary for you to reduce operations, delay deliveries or have other business interruptions from the virus. Here are a few things to do now to prepare for that:

  • Review your sick leave and related policies and update them as needed (consider changes that incentivize staying home), and establish criteria for approved work-at-home situations.
  • Make sure you have updated emergency contact information for employees, vendors, partners and clients before you need it.
  • Task workgroups / teams with identifying stand-ins in case employees get sick and can't work, and provide time for them to get each other up to speed on projects.
  • Support remote working and video calls with sufficient hardware and platforms that reduce the exposure.
  • Develop plan for responding to a quarantine or large-scale employee absences. Involve your executive team and public health professionals, if possible.
  • Know your organization’s responsibilities. If you have a duty to stay up and running during a crisis, revisit your staffing and operations plans now.
  • Prepare for difficult conversations about challenging situations like being quarantined. You don’t want to wing it when you have to tell your team they can’t fly home from the convention.

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