What to Say Right Now About the Coronavirus
Learn how to communicate about the coronavirus and how to get ahead of questions and concerns.
As a benefits professional, communicating to your people during a crisis is a top priority. It’s also one of your biggest challenges.
In this webinar, we share best practices and overall messaging on what to tell your people right now about the coronavirus and how often to communicate. Some of the topics covered include:
- Communication best practices during crises
- Benefits resources to promote
- How this crisis could be affecting your employees’ physical, emotional, and financial well-being
- Tips for working remotely
- Communication vehicles that work best
This webinar was previously recorded. View the full transcript below.
What to Say Right Now About the Coronavirus
Jen: Hello everybody. Thank you so much for joining us. This is what to say right now about the COVID-19 crisis. I am really honored that you have joined us for the webinar today. My name is Jennifer Benz, and I'm the SVP and communications leader at Segal Benz. I'm joined today by my colleague Megan Yost, who is vice president and engagement strategist, with us. Hi Megan.
Megan: Hello, hi everyone.
Jen: We want to start by acknowledging just what an absolutely stressful and difficult time it is right now. We know that many of you have been navigating really challenging personal as well as work situations over the last couple of weeks, and this is certainly an unprecedented situation that we're all going through. Megan and I are absolutely honored that you've taken some time to spend with us to discuss this topic and we have pulled together a lot of information that we hope is going to be really helpful for you and your organizations.
Although this is a very, very difficult time, I think it's also an opportunity for benefit leaders to shine and for you to play a really important leadership role in your organization. So we'll be talking a lot about that. Megan, do you want to take us through our agenda?
Megan: Sure, and I'd just like to echo what Jen said about we're really grateful that all of you have joined us today. I know that I feel personally energized by this moment and the work that we're doing because I know what an effect it has on our clients, and all of our clients' employees and members, so we really appreciate you joining us today. So what we have planned is we're going to dive into communicating during times of uncertainty. We'll talk about high level messaging channels that you might want to use to reach employees and members, and then we'll dive into benefits questions that our clients are receiving, and resources that they are sharing with their employees and members. We'll also share some real time examples and talk through strategies around managing well-being, as in addition to tips for working remotely and additional resources.
At the end of the call we'll open it up for Q&A. There is a ribbon at the bottom of your screen where there is a little Q&A button so you can submit questions through that, which we'll address, and if we run out of time please feel free to reach out to Jen or me and we'll be happy to continue the conversation.
I do want to emphasize that we recognize there is a broad variety of organizations and institutions on this call, and the resources that you have available to your employees or to your members may vary greatly from some of the things that we highlight in this call today. So what we're going to do is provide you with tips and a broad variety of resources that you could think about making available or that others are making available so you have a sense for the kinds of resources that others in the benefits area are providing to their people. So keep that in mind. We understand that there's a lot of differentiation between what you might offer, and we'll hopefully try to address that as we go as well.
Jen: Great, thanks Megan. Couple housekeeping things before we dive in. We are recording this presentation. It will be available as soon as possible after the call, either this afternoon or first thing on Monday morning. The slides will also be available. We will email those out as well as it'll be able to be downloaded from our website, and as Megan mentioned, you can enter your questions into the Q&A box throughout the presentation.
Before we dive in, I want to just say a couple things for context about who we are at Segal Benz. We are the communications practice of Segal. Segal is an HR and benefits consulting firm. As the communications group we work with a really diverse group of organizations. We work with a large group of 100 Best Companies to Work For, very large employers. We work with big as well as midsize public sector organizations, and we work with a large group of multiemployer benefit funds. So as Megan said, we're going to talk about a lot of things that may have very, very different impacts depending on where you're sitting and the area that you are working in. What is consistent with all of our clients is that we really help them get their people engaged and inspired around their benefits and well-being, and we always say this, that we have such an honor to help great organizations inspire people to improve their health, their finances, and their futures. When it comes to something like this where we are really navigating a crisis, we're just honored to work with our clients to help them through this, and I again think this is such an important opportunity for benefit leaders to really shine and be a source of trusted information and trusted counsel for folks through this very crazy and unprecedented time.
I want to mention that we have been working round the clock the last couple of weeks to keep up with what our clients need to know and also be getting information out to the broad resources out there. Our other colleagues within Segal in the health and retirement and compliance practices have been doing the same, and if you go to segalco.com there's a wealth of information at your fingertips there. Additional resources and more is going to be coming in the next couple days. We'll share some of the webinars that are coming up at the end of the session. So please access all of those resources and we hope that we're providing things that are going to be immediately valuable to your organizations.
So, with that said, I'm going to turn it back over to Megan to talk a bit about communicating during times of uncertainty, which we certainly are in right now.
Megan: Great, thank you. So we know that many of you have likely been already communicating with your employees or your participants over the past few weeks, and as this has been developing, some of our clients work closely with offices in China, or rely on China for their businesses. So this has been unfolding at different rates for the various organizations that we work with. A lot of the early communication has been focused on kind of nuts and bolts, restrictions on travel, guidance around working from home, or things of that nature. But one of the things that we wanted to underscore that's really important, especially in the messaging from leadership, is that your employees really want to hear from you. Your people want to hear from you. They need to know what's going on. Even if you don't know everything that's happening or you don't have all the guidance that you need, it's important to be transparent and communicate frequently with people upfront about what's known and what's unknown. You can be transparent and address the fact that there are certain elements of what's unfolding that you do not know yet but you will get to or that you're working on, and they'll appreciate the fact that you're, that they're aware of kind of how things are unfolding and what you're making available to them.
You also want a way to field questions and concerns in a systematic way so that you can then respond to those questions that you're hearing from employees. Also leverage managers, what are you hearing from them, and how can they help provide some guidance to their direct employees. They are a trusted source of information, so you want to leverage your managers as much as possible, provide them with talking points, and make sure that you have the channels in place to get questions from employees, address them, and then give everyone the talking points to address them back.
It's also really important in crises to make information easily accessible. So you want a way to centralize information and have a mode of updating it in real time, especially in a situation like this, as the details are unfolding and changing day by day, sometimes hour by hour. You want to be able to do this in an as easy way as possible. It's really important if you have a benefits website to use that as a centralized place of information because that can be available to family members, such as partners or spouses who could also be relying on you for information, whether you realize it or not. If you don't have a benefits website, a temporary microsite could be a solution, as well as an internal SharePoint site or something of that nature. But I do want to acknowledge, too, that we've been doing a variety of communications for the last couple weeks that span everything from emails, to letters, to flyers and so forth, but a website is really a great option to have, especially to update in real time. People can update anywhere, and anywhere on the go.
Another thing that we wanted to stress right from the outset is to really think through the people and the personas that kind of, the concerns that different groups of employees or members have within your organization. So you want to think about the clusters of employees in certain locations that might be affected in one way, or if you're dealing with different needs across the job titles that you have or if they're hourly versus salaried employees. We know there could be a lot of differentiation between the roles that your employees or members do and how that affects their jobs. So for some employees there may be a slight disruption in just transferring to a teleworking situation, but in others it could be much more drastic. Their hours could be increasing rapidly right now, or on the flip side, we understand, too, that employees or their spouses and partners could be losing jobs, or losing hours. So there's a lot of factors and considerations to consider when you're thinking about the people that you're communicating directly with, and also their households as well as the people who depend upon them, and the situation they have with children or elders that they may be caring for or worried about.
This is just one example of a benefits website that we work on for one of our clients, which we wanted to share with you here. We'll be sharing several more examples throughout this presentation about what's helpful about this website. As you'll see is there's a landing page that takes people directly to a dedicated page with resources that are centralized, and run a variety of topics and areas. So if people are feeling stress, if they're missing work, if they're caring for kids. One of the things to keep in mind is that this crisis is hitting people kind of from a variety of angles, and there's a lot to consider and a lot that they're thinking about, and not all of those items might be top of mind for them right away, but they may want to come back and look through some of these resources at another time. We're all inundated with information right now. We're getting lots of suggestions, lots of updates, lots of news to keep up with. So people need a way to digest this information at their own pace when it's relevant and meaningful to them.
Megan: Right now, Jen is going to take you through some of the common questions and areas that we have been focusing on with our clients.
Jen: Great, thanks, Megan. So there is certainly a lot to be talking about right now, from how to safely access medical care, how health and prescription drug plans work, time off and leave policies, self-care tips, helping people with chronic conditions, caregiving tips for children and elders, and then the evolving financial needs and financial landscape. So we're going to go through a lot of these and the topics that are bubbling up right now, where folks have the most questions. Certainly not an all-inclusive list. We have more things coming in every day, and just when we think that we've thought of every single thing, another question comes up. So we'd love to hear from you, other things that you're hearing from your people, and other folks would appreciate that too.
So, one of the hot topics right now that is I think pretty complicated is how to safely access medical care. So people really want to understand what are the symptoms, how do I know if I have this coronavirus, what should I be worried about? Where should I go for care if I suspect that I'm sick or if I need something? And a very strong message has been from the government, and I'm in the City of San Francisco, very strongly from the City of San Francisco, do not go to the emergency room. Do not go to your doctor's office. Call them, contact them, use telemedicine, and make sure that you're accessing care in a safe way.
Telemedicine is a huge topic right now, and this has been bubbling up as a big way for people to get the care that they need without putting themselves or others at risks. There's a lot of talk and you've most certainly seen a lot of emails and updates that organizations are trying to add telemedicine in very quickly if they don't have it right now. Keep in mind that telemedicine doesn't just mean that you have a third party telemedicine provider. It may be that your people can access telemedicine through their current providers, and use remote tools. More and more doctors and clinics and so forth are putting in those tools. So you can talk about telemedicine as an option, even if you don't have a standalone offer as a part of your benefit programs.
There's a lot of questions around how health and prescription drug plans work. Folks are going to want to know how your health plan covers preventive care, testing, and doctor's visits, and any changes that you're making in response to this crisis. People are going to want to understand telemedicine copays or any other cost factors. Prescription drug refill rules, and how to get prescription drugs. Is your PBM offering early mail order renewals? Is your pharmacy, are local pharmacies offering delivery and so forth? So there's a lot of questions around just how to access prescription drugs and then what are the nuts and bolts of how the health plan works. That nuts and bolts of how the health plan works is something that we're going to cover a lot more on Monday's webinar, where we'll have our folks from Segal's compliance team on, and they can speak really specifically about the complexity of that and the things that are changing based on legislation and so forth.
So that's kind of the big stuff with health and prescription drugs, and the nuts and bolts of how to access healthcare. Equally complicated are time off and leave policies. So do you have sick pay? Is that separate from PTO? If you have an unlimited or non-accrued time off policy, how does that work when somebody gets sick? How does it coordinate with short-term disability? There are so many questions here, and it's very, very complex, and a lot of this is changing, where organizations might be impacted by some of the legislation that's coming out and that's going to change what's in place, or you may be responding as an organization to this. We've heard many organizations that are thinking about shared pools for time off and kind of emergency relief programs for people who might not have enough time off. So lots of very complicated things to dig into here, and we encourage you to really dissect this with not just your benefits team but also your legal counsel and your compliance consultants because these things are changing by the moment with some of the new legislation that's coming out and so forth.
Megan, you want to talk a bit about self-care and managing stress and so forth? I can kind of feel the stress mounting and we're talking about all of these complicated things.
Megan: Yeah. So one of the aspects of this pandemic, and the quarantines, and the shelters in place, the social distancing, what that's creating is a lot of anxiety and stress in a number of different areas for people. So there's the stress of continuing to work but in different capacities, whether it's remote for the first time, or working with children or young children at home. There's worries about family members, and elders, and people who might be with you or not with you, and are they adhering to the guidelines as they should? Also the real economic strains that we're all facing, for those that are maybe losing jobs, or seeing reduced hours, or are affected by family members, loved ones who are losing jobs. So there's a lot in the air. There's anxiety about the markets and the volatility that we're seeing in the stock markets and so forth. So it's really important to make resources available to employees. A lot of our clients have been highlighting the employee assistance program, EAP. If they have other mental health resources like apps or webinars. One of my clients has ongoing mini mindfulness sessions. They're making those available or reminding people where to find them and how to access them, and the benefits of just taking five minutes to breathe deep and step back from the day-to-day of what they're experiencing.
Another area to highlight is virtual workouts. So what can you access in the comfort of your home and continue to move your body so that you can continue to stay healthy, but also so that it helps you decompress or relax from the onslaught of information that you're getting about the coronavirus, or employees are receiving about the coronavirus. I want to point out about these resources that I'm kind of enumerating here is that you may or may not have virtual workouts that you can share with your employees or members based on your benefits offer. You might not have an on-site gym with trainers who are making these things available, but there are plenty of free resources right now that you can point people to, even pointing them to YouTube to find yoga, or other workouts that can be done in home, or encouraging people to take walks outside at safe distances. So we are stressing or including these points just to help you think about communicating holistic resources to your people so that they have a broad sense of things that they could be using or tapping into that could benefit them.
Then of course, you also want to acknowledge the financial strain and the stress that people are under with regard to having spouses or people who might have to be working and not, if someone is at home and is still working remotely, they might have children. So we want to make sure that you're thinking through kind of the impacts to your employees and the various things that they may be juggling based on their whole household situation.
Jen: Yeah, I think especially important here are there are a lot of people who are not staying at home, who are going to work every day as usual because they are part of an essential service or an essential industry, and there's going to be an additional level of stress that goes along with that. What are they being exposed to? How does that impact the rest of the family? And your people could have any variety of those things happening in their homes.
Megan: Yeah, in addition to that, one other thing I wanted to point out is there may be local resources. So again, you don't necessarily have to have these as offers within your benefits program, but if there are meals that are being given out at the local elementary school. In my town right now they're giving out meals and you don't have to live in the town to receive food. So there's a lot of resources that you can suggest to your employees or members, and that goes back to the point we made earlier about kind of understanding the clusters of where your employees live, and so what resources are around them that you can recommend that might enhance or augment the benefits that you provide.
In addition, another whole category to think about is accessing chronic care. So people who have chronic needs accessing medical care. So in a lot of cases, as Jen mentioned earlier, offices are shifting towards more virtual resources or virtual coaching, virtual appointments. You can recommend that employees also check out healthy eating demos, there are recipes to help them keep on track with some of the programs and things that they were doing prior to life changing. I mean, if they're working from home they may have easy access now to the refrigerator. So that's something else people have to think about how they're managing and going through their day differently than they had been before. So tips and tricks about eating well are important, and also again, emphasizing prescription drug renewals and helping people who have chronic conditions access the drugs that they need so that they don't run out.
Jen: Yeah. We are hearing about a lot of folks are being asked to reschedule or to push out routine appointments. So, people should be thinking about what does that mean for me if I'm managing a chronic condition and I can't go in for that follow-up, or I don't have access to that same type of check-in with my doctors as usual? Are there additional resources that your health plan is providing or that are already in place for folks that they might want to access so that they have that additional support while they may not be able to see their typical providers?
Megan: Exactly. Then another category that has been really critical to employees and members right now is care, accessing care. There's restrictions on backup care. There's restrictions on daycare at the moment. So how might they navigate this or how might you recommend that they not navigate this. Do you need to shift to a more shift schedule for employees so that they can take care of people at home? In some cases our clients are making available crisis care options, and then there is a component of that, of if they're being reimbursed for care. How does that work with the FSA if they're contributing to a dependent care account? So you'll want to explain that to employees.
Then we also have clients that are highlighting educational resources. So for those that have children at home that aren't in school, how do they access educational materials? And some of our clients are making those available as well, in addition to lots of other suggestions that the world is sharing right now on that topic.
Then one other section is evolving financial needs. So you may have already been planning to send out a retirement plan statement in the next few weeks. We know we have a lot of clients that send them around spring time, and that those statements may have reflected last year's calendar year. So that don't take into account the recent volatility in the markets, and it's important to include a message to participants in those statements to help them understand that the document they're receiving does not include information with regard to the recent activity in the market, so that they have an understanding that it doesn't feel like you're forgetting or you're ignoring something that could make people wonder or could make them worry more. You want to reassure people that you, that that information is not contained in the statement, and then what to think about, and give them some pointers to how this could be impacting their accounts.
Similarly, you want to think about employees and their 401(k)s and concerns about the market volatility, as well as the financial strain that employees could be facing on, or members could be facing based on lost jobs, reduced hours, or lost income from a partner or spouse. What resources do you have available to help them navigate, who can they talk to. Can your 401(k) provider provide one-on-one counseling at the moment? Are there any emergency and hardship loans that are available? I know that this is a topic that is being considered in legislation right now, and we'll have more updates as that continues to evolve in the next week or so.
Some of our clients make disaster relief programs available. So one of our clients in particular offers short-term loans to employees. So that might be something to think about, or if there is some sort of time off sharing or sharing of vacation time that employees can donate and offer to others who need it if they're taking, need to take time off to see or to care for children, or elders, or if they need to take care of themselves, time off to take for themselves. Those are all things you want to think about, and again as I mentioned earlier, what other local resources can you provide or highlight that they can access that might be helpful during this time period?
Jen: Yep, absolutely. I want to mention, too, that in 2008 as well as when we've had natural disasters and so forth, some of these ideas around relief programs or shared time off pools and so forth, they actually bubble up from the employee population within an organization. Like hey, we know that our colleagues are really suffering. I have something I could give. How can I do that? And I think it's important to be aware of that, and use that as an additional feedback channel. We've seen some really creative things come up in different organizations, and this is a time where people want to be able to feel connected and like they can contribute in some way, and that might be a very difficult thing to figure out how to pull it off as an organization, but know that those conversations are sometimes, those topics kind of sometimes bubble up from the population itself rather than the leadership.
Megan: So now we're going to show some examples that we have been working on in the last three, four, five days that we've put together for our clients. Most of these are web based, and I want to underscore that this is not the only way to communicate to employees. They're just some of the more interesting and exciting examples to share. They're easy to share online. Sometimes letters and talking points to managers don't translate so well to PowerPoint presentations, but those are other channels you can make available. There's always the good old phone tree to pass messages on or point people to centralized resources if they're housed in one place. Or maybe if you don't have web access, having a Q&A session. Well, you'd have to do it virtually now. A Q&A session and have people call in to a forum like this where people can exchange ideas and share questions and you can provide answers. So you'll have to think about the best way to make information available to your employees or members, but we wanted to share some examples so you could see the look and feel of some of the things that we've created and the topics that we have been communicating about.
This example here is for one of our clients. It's their landing page. So we took over the landing page and posted a message about COVID-19 concerns. It corresponds to an interior page and what's nice about this as you can see in the gray section, some of the broad buckets that are being addressed on this page. So people can glance at it quickly and see if there might be something that's of interest of them, and then navigate directly to that area of the webpage.
Jen: And the topics here are if you need medical care, if you're feeling stressed, if you need backup care, and if you'll miss work.
Megan: Yeah, thank you. Similarly, on the next slide you'll see another landing page that we created for one of our clients. It has links out to recommendations about protecting yourself from the CDC as well as an internal SharePoint site where there is a lot of non-benefits COVID related information about working remotely and travel and so forth. Their site here has drop-downs that employees can expand and there's various information on medical care, feeling stressed, what to do if you're looking for something to do and you're not quite busy at the moment. So there are some different suggestions there as well as access to financial resources.
Here's another example from one of our clients, and what I like about this is the prominent call to action about connecting with the EAP, which we mentioned earlier is a great resource in stressful situations. Then another example from one of our clients, obviously this is affecting them differently, so they're closing their office. There's immediate information about the office being closed, that payments will continue but they'll be delayed. So reassuring people about receiving their pension as well as additional information about where to, or customer service to contact for questions.
Then finally an example from one of our higher ed clients that showcases just a general understanding about the coronavirus and what it is, what the symptoms are, how it spreads and so forth. As I mentioned, what's great about web based resources is that they're easy to update. So, as employers get more information about what's happening as rules change with legislative measures, that can be incorporated and plan sponsors or employers can send push messages like emails, or other updates to employees to remind them to go back and to revisit the resources that are on the web.
Jen: Mm-hmm [affirmative], absolutely. Absolutely. So lots of good questions are coming in. We'll answer those at the end, and absolutely all of the slides will be available for folks to download and use as a checklist. We wanted to talk a little bit about managing well-being and really thinking about this from your individual, from the perspective of the individual folks that you are communicating with, and helping them through this very stressful scenario. So we know that this is a challenging time. We want to acknowledge what people are going through, and make sure that communications are speaking in an empathetic way that really helps people feel that their personal situation is being acknowledged. So really don't forget the human element in what you're doing and the communication. You want to focus on what people need to do, and having calls to actions, being very clear about the ways people can take action is important, but also acknowledge what they're going through.
So have empathy, make sure that the communications are relatable. Recognize that people are juggling all sorts of different situations. New ways of working, they may have kids at home and so forth, and both for you, the organization that you may be supporting broadly, this is important, but also for your individual team. If you're a leader of a team, it's really important to acknowledge all of this and really emphasize the importance of self-care, and taking breaks, and exercising, and all of these things that we've mentioned, in addition to continuing to get work done. We've been having a lot of conversations about this as a team, and helping folks navigate the realities of the situation that we're in right now. Managers are a big piece of this, Megan.
Megan: Yeah, I mean, I would just add to your point earlier about transitioning to a new way of working. With teleworking, one of the challenges is that sometimes you're never offline. So you can find yourself working around the clock, and that might be necessary because of the nature of your business at the moment and the work that you're doing, but you do want to emphasize to employees just because they're no longer commuting doesn't mean that they should be spending all hours in front of the computer. In fact that they may be less productive by not taking breaks and not giving their minds a chance to recharge and refresh so that they're as productive as they should be during key moments of the day.
So, one other thing that Jen had just mentioned is supporting and empowering managers. Support from your managers will be key. This is, as Jen mentioned, a really difficult situation for many members and participants to navigate. So it's important to check in regularly with your teams, or recommend to the broader organization that they check in with their teams and have more connectivity, because people may be feeling a bit lost working from home or not having that face-to-face contact that they're used to. So a lot of that can transition easily online with virtual meetings, using web cameras. Sometimes that feels a little awkward at first, but it's a great way to still feel connected to employees. I have always worked virtually while working for Segal, and I actually really appreciate now that all my colleagues are working virtually as well, and if feel even more connected to them because I'm seeing them online and in video, and I have never seen some of them before. So I actually feel more connected than I had previously, and I've actually enjoyed this opportunity to work in a different way with my colleagues.
Then also it's important to encourage your employees to reschedule non-critical work. So things that can be moved aside for the moment. So give people the breathing room to focus on what's really important right now for clients, or employees, or whatever is really business critical so that they have the ability to do that and also juggle things. Then I do want to reemphasize for your managers, making sure that they're checking in with employees to make sure that people are feeling okay about what they're going through so that they have a sense for is anyone getting really, really stressed, extremely stressed about the situation and you have a good pulse for kind of the mindset of employees and members that you support.
Jen: Mm-hmm [affirmative], definitely. I think this is all important to think about if you are trying to educate a large population of employees or participants, and it's also important for your own team, and either your HR organization or your fund office. There's just a lot of components for us all to be navigating right now, and I think making sure that the people who are supporting your organization can take care of themselves is going to be so critical for getting through all of this.
So, with that we want to talk about just a couple tips for working remotely. Megan mentioned some of these on the last slide. We've actually had more than half of our team remote really for the whole time I've been managing the team, so more than 10 years, almost 15 years. The last year and a half or so we've had about half of our team in the office and then half of the team remote. But even the folks that are in the office often work at home a couple days a week. So we've learned a lot about how to use the tools, and I do think it's a way you can really help people feel even more connected with consistent communication, those daily check-ins, and the video conferencing is so key. If as an organization you have not done that in the past, just rip the Band-Aid off, make everyone get on video for every meeting, and it will really help people feel much, much, much more connected, even when keeping a distance physically.
Let's talk a little bit about additional resources, and then I know we have lots of questions coming in.
Megan: So, we've wanted to highlight the webpage on Segalco.com. There is a variety of resources here about multiple different facets of this virus and how it's affecting organizations, and what you might be looking for information on. So whether it's about investment, the investment environment, and the markets, or about communications, or about compliance. All of that information will be on Segalco.com. In addition to that there is a webinar on Monday that we will have information for. Here it is. So there is a webinar on Monday that we encourage you to sign up for. This will have a lot of great information about plan design, as well as an update on all of the legislation, and how that's impacting leave, and medical plans and so forth. So all of that really detailed information will be available in this webinar on Monday. We highly encourage you that you check it out.
Jen: Absolutely. We also next week will host an interactive webinar about our 10 keys, where we'll really walk you through creating a communication strategy for your organization. We had that on the calendar many, many weeks ago, as we did this time, which was initially intended to be an overall benefits communication webinar. So we're going to keep that 10 keys webinar. Next week it's going to be very interactive, and help you actually create a strategy for your organization. Then later down the road in April we'll have a webinar on what's next in benefits communication. That's actually the session that we were going to present at a conference in April. Many of those conferences have been canceled now. So we're going to be delivering that content still in a webinar. But really encourage you to join on Monday. We're going to go through lots more of the nuts and bolts of what's going on, particularly with the legislation.
So, with that, let's check out the questions. Appreciate you all typing in lots of good questions. The first one ... Well, before I go into the questions, again, the slides will be available, a recording will be available. So anything that you've missed or if you had to step out for a little bit, don't worry about missing information.
So, the first question that came in, Megan: How do you best communicate with a membership that has no or limited access to online information?
Megan: Yeah, that's a great question. So I think one of the things that you could make available is a webinar or a conference call. If you're able to, let people know that there's something happening. We also have employers mailing information to homes, so that those, all the family members who are affected can receive that information. There's ways to have opt-in. So you could send something, if you have a website or something of that nature where you can ask people if they would like to receive more information, then they can provide their email address and then they can kind of opt in to future emails from you. That's another way to get information. Some of our clients use text message, especially in disaster situations as ways of reaching people. So if you can let them know of a few resources and where to find more information, then that's a great way to get information out.
Jen: Mm-hmm [affirmative], absolutely. I would also add that there really are not very many segments of the US that don't have online access. So an incredibly high percentage of folks, upwards of 90%, have a smartphone of some kind, or someone in their family has a smartphone. So if you have a population that you have not done online communication with before, where you do not have a website that folks can access on their mobile device, now it's really the time to create one because the traditional methods of mailing things and so forth are just not going to be able to keep up with how rapidly things are changing. We can build you a website within a few days if you need to get that emergency response page up, and there are lots of other ways to do it, too. Then you can mail out a simple postcard to your folks and say, "Here's an online resource that we're going to be updating every week for you to have access to." And that's going to be hugely, hugely valuable, as well as then be a key piece of your infrastructure going forward. Then I would also go back to the manager topic. If you have anyone in the field who can be a communication channel for folks, that's an important audience to tap into for populations where you may not be able to email them, or have confidence that they're online during their work day.
Megan: I would also add, Jen, that you can lean on your vendor partners. So can your 401(k) administrator or other administrators, health plan administrator, provide information or point people to information that would be useful to them? So, we have one of our clients that has a vendor partner that uses social media. So they don't do social media directly through HR with their employees, but they have that channel. So can they help get information out and help you reach those employees in different areas?
Jen: Mm-hmm [affirmative], absolutely. Absolutely. So a couple folks are asking how to sign up for Monday's webinar, and it should be on Segalco. We will email out a link to everyone who attended or signed up today. We'll do that just shortly after the call so that you have an easy place to sign up for that. Definitely encourage you to join that webinar.
Another question. Any recommendations on communicating emergency pay policies or any other emergency changes? I would recommend on those topics to follow all of the best practices that we've talked about today, try to get information as easily accessible as possible, and make it actionable. What do folks need to do? How do they access a benefit or a resource and so forth? Those, anything that you're doing as kind of an emergency response, you're going to want to get in folk's hands as soon as possible, and anticipate that there will be a lot of questions. So figure out how you can support those questions that come in and so forth. Megan, what else would you say on that topic?
Megan: I would add that it's important to have some of these more legal questions reviewed by your compliance team, or compliance consultants, legal advisors that you work with, but also that you, it's important to work with someone who can help translate that language into plain, simple language that people will understand. So, you don't want some of your responses to come out and feel more, frustrate your employees more, because it's in a lot of legalese. So if you can work closely together with both compliance and legal, and communication, internal communications or external partners that you may work with, that might help you strike the right tone and balance in terms of getting that information out in a way that's easily digestible to employees or members so that they understand what is being shared with them, and it doesn't raise more questions or more frustration.
Jen: Mm-hmm [affirmative], absolutely. I think this is a really great question. How do you walk the tight wire to deliver information without feeding the hysteria? That's a great question. How do we keep information flowing without making people feel more anxious? Megan, do you want to comment on that first?
Megan: I think it's important to, this is why we were recommending communicating more frequently as opposed to less, especially in times of crises, because people want to hear from leadership. So it's important to show an example as a leader or as the person who is setting the tone in the communications, that we recognize that this is an unprecedented situation, that you might have concerns and fears about a lot of different topics. That's why we're putting together these resources, and if you have more questions please come to us. I think it's important to set that tone in a straightforward, calm, and simple direct communications, and that's why building trust and transparency are so important. I would underscore, too, that employers and benefits providers are really trusted sources of information. So your people are looking to you for answers, they are looking to you for direction. So you're a really important channel for them to tap into during a moment like this. So even if you can, if you communicate and you say that you also feel the stress and anxiety, these are some recommendations for how you personally are dealing with it, that can go a long way to reassuring employees as well.
So I've heard various managers over the past week talk about their own meditation habits that they might be following, or the breaks that they're taking to go out for a walk, or the way that they're trying to detach from social media, or from the news, as ways to kind of cope with all of the information is really important.
Jen: Mm-hmm [affirmative], absolutely. Along those lines, is it important for people to be able to see the leaders and engage with them, versus just having emails go out and so forth? I would say absolutely. If there is an opportunity to have a conversation, to have a video call, or a webinar, any ways for folks to engage and hear from people directly is going to help guide that good information that is not adding to stress, or adding to strain.
Megan: One other point I'd like to make on this topic is, with the financial markets in particular and the volatility there, there is a lot of anxiety about your money, is it safe, and so forth. A lot of the financial institutions have really great resources and are currently building more resources to help address some of that fear and anxiety. One of our clients has a provider that has a piece about six tips for navigating volatility, and shows a diagram of how the markets over time continue to perform, even when there are downturns. So showing things to people in ways that can help them digest information differently than just words can be helpful too, and reassure them that over time, over the long run, if you had a strategy, that's always a good thing to stick to and not to make any knee-jerk reactions based on your emotions or feelings at the moment.
Jen: Mm-hmm [affirmative], absolutely. There's another question about the right cadence for sending information out. At times, we would say don't overwhelm people, but I don't really think that this is necessarily a situation where you can overcommunicate. What do you think, Megan?
Megan: Yeah, I agree, and I think you can test different ways of communicating in the sense that in some cases you might just say there is an additional resource that we think is worth highlighting. Here it is and this is how it works, versus other emails that might have a laundry list of things to consider and do and so forth. So it could be as simple as don't forget we've posted more information to our website. One of my clients is batching this information right now. So they posted in a website, or created a landing page that went live I believe on Tuesday. So they anticipate reminding people about it on a I think weekly basis, depending upon how things continue to progress. As they collect more information and put it online, they're going to share that. But they also are looking at things that what's really critical. If something new comes in that's critical, if there is a really good resource, they'll put that on faster. So if people happen to see it, that would help them as well in real time.
Jen: Yep, absolutely. All right, that's great. We really appreciate you all joining us. We're right at the top of the hour. Again, we have the webinar on Monday that is going to talk about all of the nitty-gritty of what's going on. There are a couple very detailed questions that came in about leave policies and how the new legislation will work and so forth, and all of that will be covered on Monday. Please send in any other questions that you have and we will make sure that they are covered. We want to encourage you to reach out if we can support you in any way. If you want help navigating the resources that are available, we are more than happy to support you and talk about the individual circumstances that you're navigating in your organizations. We really appreciate you all joining today, and again, just want to say this is a stressful and uncertain time, but certainly one where benefits leaders and you all can provide so much critical information and really help your people navigate through this. We appreciate everything that you all are doing and we really appreciate you joining today. So thank you and we will look forward to connecting again soon.