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Last year, employers found themselves communicating regularly about protocols that had never been part of their standard operating procedures. 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 that must be communicated to employees.
Whether you are in human resources or employee communications, you’re critical to keeping employees informed and aware of their vaccine options. 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 the pandemic.”
Here are some things to keep in mind as you start communicating with your workforce about the COVID vaccine:
- 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 employees won’t be eligible for the vaccine for some time.
- Highlight the benefits of being vaccinated but be respectful of varying opinions about the subject. Many are struggling with whether to get vaccinated, so provide educational resources that help them decide.
- Reinforce CDC and public health recommendations.
- Provide communication that can be shared with families. Spouses and dependents are often part of the vaccination decision.
- Constantly evaluate the communications process 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 gauge employee attitudes. Consider sending out an anonymous survey. Companies must weigh the business consequences of their vaccine policy. While the majority of U.S. organizations (61%) intend only to encourage but not require the vaccination, some companies, given the nature of their business, 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 keep up with the latest professional guidance. Your employees are counting on their workplace to be a source of accurate and reliable information.