by Mariel Alison L. Aguinaldo

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the emotional and mental well-being of people all over the world. Health experts from the United Nations warned of a looming mental illness crisis.

During troubled times, people turn to organizations they trust — their employers being chief among them — for information. According to a study by Edelman, a global communications firm, employer communication is the most trusted source of pandemic-related information, ranking even higher than government and health company websites.

With employees putting their faith in companies, how can business leaders communicate effectively with their workforce? Carlo Mata, managing director at law firm White & Case Global Operations Center, shared three ways companies should communicate with employees during the Asia Future-of-Work Forum held on June 25.

1. With empathy

Every person experiences stress in their own way, in varying degrees, triggered by a unique set of reasons. In this case, it’s important to listen openly to their stories and make them feel that they are truly being heard.

“People need to feel and understand that we genuinely care for them. In our communication, we make sure that we acknowledge their feelings and priorities, which [are] health, safety, and well-being,” said Mr. Mata.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised keeping the focus on their suffering and not yours when you hold conversations with your employees. When they become emotional or start crying, allow them to do so without interruption.

2. Truthfully

With so much bad news already infiltrating screens and social media timelines, it may be tempting to shield your employees or to project excessive positivity. However, it may be better to give them information as it is. Your employees are expecting credible information; denying them of this may prove detrimental in the long run.

“We need to be realistic… During times of crisis, as leaders, we don’t ignore or mask problems; we lead through them. Our people can handle bad news better than no news at all,” said Mr. Mata.

One way to do this, as advised by management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, is to avoid sugarcoating bad news. When speculating, be clear that you’re doing so and avoid dropping “hard and fast estimates.” And don’t be afraid to show what’s going on behind-the-scenes. By being transparent, you’re building your employee’s trust in your organization.

3. Frequently

Your employees are already physically distant from each other; make sure to bridge that gap with constant communication. Harvard Business Review recommends keeping in touch no less than every other day. Depending on the situation, it may also be better to give timely updates instead of waiting to get all of the information.

“Every day, things are changing, information and regulations are changing. So we use every means possible to communicate with our team,” said Mr. Mata.

For Willis Towers Watson, a global advisory, broking, and solutions company, this means utilizing all possible channels such as text messaging, e-mail, and even microsites. You may also explore different kinds of virtual meetings to compensate for your typical face-to-face interactions, such as online game nights and virtual coffee chats.