October through May is generally a time when many eyes turn toward flu prevention and curbing outbreaks. This year, however, the coronavirus quickly overshadowed the flu with constant media coverage and government-imposed closures and stay-at-home measures.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates for the U.S. flu, season between Oct. 1, 2019, and April 4, 2020, there were between 39-56 million flu illnesses that resulted in 24,000-62,000 deaths.
By late April, the John Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center reported more than 890,524 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. resulting in more than 51,000 deaths.
Today, state and local governments are grappling with the effects of coronavirus. Many are now discussing ways to restart the economy and begin allowing people to return to traditional work environments and limited public interactions.
To be resilient in this environment—and in the coming weeks and months as businesses determine what our new “normal” will look like—companies can make plans to minimize the toll that unexpected or anticipated COVID-19 related absences will have on their operations.
A critical piece of navigating the restart of operations is effective communication.
Here’s an example: Let’s say your state government allows your business to reopen, but continues social distancing restrictions that limit how many people can be in the same space and at which distances they can or cannot congregate.
How do you fill shifts appropriately so work can continue?
A great option in this situation is to use an automated notification system, such as Assurance Notification Manager.
Assurance Notification Manager allows organizations to automatically call through a pre-sequenced list one at a time to quickly and efficiently fill staff vacancies. The call outcomes are clearly documented in reports, providing critical information, such as when calls are answered, and which shifts are declined, and by whom
So whether you need to recruit one person for a single shift or an entire crew for a last-minute assignment or project, these fully-integrated notification software solutions minimize stress, while maximizing simplicity.
Here are some of the other ways an automated notification system may help your organization as you continue to work through coronavirus impacts:
- Send targeted messages, including real-time geo-based alerts to notify employees of changes or important information
- Prepare for incidents by signaling all appropriate channels with voice, email, text and mobile app notifications, including advisories issued through desktop alerts
- Instantly communicate beyond your core employees, including key stakeholders, contractors, vendors, and customers
- Create, manage and test notification groups targeting specific disruption types
Automated Notification System Best Practices
If you haven’t already incorporated automated notification management processes into your business continuity program, now is the time to consider and adopt some best practices to help more efficiently communicate throughout your organization in light of COVID-19.
Know which delivery channels work best for your intended recipients and message types, and be sure to have accurate, updated contact information for all of those channels.
For example, you may have traditionally used voice calls for alerts and notifications, but today, many people prefer and have more access to text message, email, or mobile apps.
Be sure to communicate with your team members about the types of delivery channels you may use for notifications so they are not surprised—or don’t trust—a notification that comes from an unusual channel.
Also, make sure your employees know and who (for example phone number, email address, and/or name) alert messages will come from. Once you’ve shared that information with your team, stick with those channels. If you discover in the future you need to change or update communicate methods, be sure to update your team.
When choosing delivery channels, it may also be appropriate to select based on severity, urgency, and content.
For urgent (and brief) alerts, voice and text messages may be a great option. According to Pew Research Center, today about 96% of Americans own a cellphone and about 81% own a smartphone.
Of these smartphone users, they generally send and receive five times as many text messages each day as they do making and receiving calls. That means there is a pretty high likelihood that texting is the communication method of choice for many of your target audiences.
So how do you use these short, instant messages as effectively as possible during a crisis or pandemic communication era like the one created today by coronavirus? Here are a few recommendations:
- Keep messages brief, ideally less than 480 characters.
- Remember, the more concise and accurate the better. Some carriers split long messages into multiple deliveries and you cannot control which part of your message is received when. Some segments may be as short as 70 characters. The briefer the communication, the less chance for confusion.
- If you’re sending a high volume of messages to a single geographical area (especially if you’re sending them during an emergency when others may be using cell towers for communication, too) you could encounter delivery issues.
Emails may be more appropriate for more detailed alerts where you need to share in-depth information. This also allows employees to follow up with and re-read critical information that may otherwise be missed by listening to a voice message. Emails also enable you to send attachments, include appropriate branding, and link to additional information as needed.
With an automated notification system like Assurance you can implement a cascading feature when you need to send less urgent alerts. For example, you can target specific delivery channels to receive the message first (like a call) and then have the system follow an order (then text, then email) until the recipient receives the message
If you’re in an emergency situation, consider targeting all applicable devices and delivery channels at once. This will increase the likelihood that your team member gets the targeted message as quickly as possible.
Select a notification management tool that allows you to customize your notifications based on device functionality. This will help ensure that your alerts are going out to each channel within a single alert-sending flow.
Is your automated notification system ready operating at peak efficiency to help you navigate through our new COVID-19 workplace normalcy? Check out our blog, “Is Your Emergency Notification System Crisis Ready?” for more tips.
Remember, having the right business continuity strategies in place, like an effective automated notification system, can help your organization overcome obstacles faced from coronavirus-related sick leave or other circumstances, so plan ahead to better support your employees and to protect your bottom line.
Written by Assurance Software
Assurance Software takes your company’s enterprise-wide business continuity and resiliency program to the next level. With Assurance as your go-to partner for continuity and resilience, you can confidently mitigate risk, manage recovery, and safeguard your employees, customers, operations and brands.