Last year, employers found themselves communicating regularly about protocols that had never been part of their standard operating procedures before this. Now things like social distancing and wearing a face mask are a normal part of doing business. And as pharmaceutical companies roll out their COVID vaccines, employers will again find themselves establishing policy and communicating with employees about that option.
Whether you’re in human resources or employee communications, you’re critical to helping employees be informed and aware of their options to vaccinate. In fact, according to a recent The New York Times article, “Public health experts see employers as playing an important role in vaccinating enough people to reach herd immunity and get a handle on a pandemic.”
As you start communicating with your workforce about the COVID vaccine, here are some things to keep in mind as you do:
- Communicate in a straightforward, informational way—just like you would with other wellbeing updates such as the flu shot or preventative care.
- Share company expectations about the vaccine in an honest and transparent way.
- Develop a multi-month, multi-pronged strategy. Communications should be regular over a period of time as many won’t be eligible for some time.
- Maintain a balance between highlighting the benefits while being respectful of varying opinions. Many are struggling with whether or not to get vaccinated so provide educational resources that help them make their decisions.
- Reinforce CDC and public health recommendations.
- Provide communication to the homes. Spouses and dependents are also part of the decision of whether or not to get the vaccine.
- Be sure to assess how the process is going and make changes as needed.
Have a Strategy. Make a Plan.
As an employer, it’s critical that you have a vaccination strategy for your company. A good way to determine your strategy is to get a gauge on employee attitudes. Consider sending out an anonymous survey. Companies will also evaluate their business reasons for whether or not to require the vaccine. While the majority of U.S. organizations (61%) intend only to encourage but not require the vaccination, some companies, given the nature of their businesses, have justification for requiring it.
Whatever you decide, make sure you:
- Communicate your policy or expectations consistently across your workforce.
- Identify ways to support those getting the vaccine.
- Provide reasonable, respectful accommodations for employees opting not to get it.
As COVID vaccinations roll out across the country and increase in number, feelings about the process will likely ebb and flow. Employees want a safe place to work, and everyone wants to stay healthy. Do your homework and stay up on the latest information. Your employees are counting on their workplace to be a source of accurate and reliable information.
—Contributed by Melissa Cotterill, Executive Vice President, Westcomm