Whitepaper 1.1 – Collaborator Perspectives Part 1
Ann-Marie Blake, Global Communications Lead, Tier One Bank
At the time, the company was planning on hosting a number of global engagement events starting in China. The events were due to take place in January-March, however it was early January when the first rumblings of the virus began to surface.
“At this time, we didn’t appreciate the seriousness of the virus and thought we’d be able to move the event a few weeks into February.”
However, it began to turn around the time of Chinese New Year when the team in China were asked to work remotely for the foreseeable future.
“From our side (in the UK), we continued to plan to run a series of face to face events, however, there was a ban on travel to China, which soon extended to Hong Kong and Singapore, meaning we needed to re-think our approach. Our teams were working from home and to save bandwidth, we were limited in what we could do with video conferencing.”
Initially, the UK didn’t have a lot of visibility around how things were unfolding as the communications to impacted teams remained at a local/regional level focusing on operational details.
Global communications were orientated around informing other colleagues to be sensitive to teams in the region who were working from home or at contingency sites.
Financial services are really hot on business continuity and contingency planning, ensuring that if anything happens, everyone knows where they need to be and what they need to do.
“The comms began to elevate and took a more serious tone when travel restrictions became stricter. This is when it began to impact the whole business rather than just Asia. It started with ‘only travel if completely vital’, then ‘if you have to travel to Asia, self-isolate on your return’, then it was a complete travel ban to China, which quickly became a complete ban on all travel.”
The comms moved away from business continuity to instructional messaging, focusing on topics around travel restrictions, wellbeing guidance and where to find information.
To distribute the comms, teams were broken down via the chosen messaging, some continued to focus on business continuity whilst others began to focus on COVID-19 related comms. The team utilised a range of internal comms techniques to relay the messaging to their thousands of team members.
- Hub – Towards the end of January, the team created a central hub on the intranet that contained all information surrounding COVID-19, as a single source of the truth. It included a range of advice, from the government and the WHO. The hub included a range of business and health instructions such as avoiding contact or how to move to remote working.
- Text – For all immediate information and instant updates like office closures, SMS texts were sent to all relevant staff.
- Posters – For those who still needed to attend offices for essential reasons, posters were placed in ambient positions such as bathrooms with washing hands reminders.
- Email – When dealing with a specific issue, emails were relayed to all relevant colleagues. For example, when responding to a crisis, like a confirmed case in an office, emails were sent to staff reassuring them and communicating instructions on floor closures and self-isolation.
- Check-in Sessions – Managers have been holding check-in sessions with their teams via video. These conversations were very focused upon well-being. Questions were being asked how they are coping with remote working, if they need help and if they have access to computers.
Howard Krais, Internal Communications Manager, Johnson Matthey
Johnson Matthey is an international speciality chemicals and sustainable technologies company headquartered in the UK. It has more than 30 sites and locations across the world and over 15,000 members of staff.
Howard manages all communications and engagement activities for Johnson Matthey’s biggest sector, Clean Air, coordinating and relaying comms messaging strategies across this global business.
At the beginning of February, it was business as usual. They had recently opened a brand-new plant in Poland and there were big plans to invite a number of senior signatories including high ranking Polish government and British Embassy officials, to the grand opening in April. In the first week of February, Howard had also planned a business trip to Japan.
China was off limits but travel elsewhere in Asia was not restricted. However, by the time they reached the end of the month, the situation had drastically shifted. The trip to Japan was off, with all travel to Asia now restricted, and travel anywhere was beginning to be questioned. Plans for the Polish site opening were soon to be put on hold.
Due to the international nature of JM, and with COVID-19 impacting different regions at different times, there had to be communication targeted appropriately for different locations. In February, there were more regional based comms related to COVID-19 in Asia, whereas Europe received a mixture of business as usual messages alongside a growing number of travel related instructional comms.
“It was recently after Chinese New Year and we instructed the Chinese staff members to remain home for another week and not come back to work. There was a lot of Health and Safety related communication going out to that region as well. Aside from these, there was messaging to other locations telling them not to travel to China at the beginning of the month, which quickly changed to a full travel ban for Asia.”
The following mediums were used to relay the specific messaging chosen for each region.
- Via Leadership – For those staff based in factories, ability to reach via email is lower. Therefore, information was relayed by leadership members on the shop floor.
- EHS Briefings – The team hosted EHS meetings to inform employees on the new changes to procedure and the social distancing instructions they must follow.
- Microsoft Teams – Teams calls were chosen as a way to help build morale, helping teams connect, as it’s the closest alternative to social interaction. They wanted to understand how employees were coping with remote working, if they need help or access to computers.
- Emails – Emails were used to communicate key information on international travel for those based in other countries. Important HSE information was distributed to those in China alongside instructions for remote-based staff.