Communication During Unprecedented Times
By: Rachel Teichberg, CVPM
Here we are, living through an unprecedented time as the world has been turned upside down, the future is uncertain, and the tension is high. People are stressed, afraid, worried, and exhausted. Our minds are all over the place, feeling the overwhelm of information while trying to navigate this ever-changing landscape of COVID-19.
This is new territory for everyone but let me be the one to tell you: YOU’RE DOING GREAT. It may not feel like it, but I promise that you are. You’re showing up, you're minding your distance, and you’re thinking about your employees, your business and, of course, your patients. You want what’s best for everyone and that may mean making a lot of immediate temporary changes.
Be a Source of Quality Information
During this time, your communication skills are going to have to take the wheel. I know that it may feel like communication overload these days between the news, social media, and our inbox, but it’s important to provide resources and information about COVID-19 to your team. Do not assume everyone is getting quality news from legitimate sources. You don’t need to be an expert but provide the links and resources that can help them keep themselves and their families safe. Consider sites such as the CDC, AVMA, WHO and your local VMA. Information is being updated as the situation progresses, so continue to monitor them regularly.
Create and Communicate a Plan of Action
Regardless of how many COVID-19 cases are in your state or area, make a plan for what the next stage may look like and communicate these plans to your team now. If your lobby is currently open for clients and their pets, create a plan for when you may need to close the lobby and move to concierge service. Think about telemedicine now and what you would need to implement that in practice. How will your practice handle a case or exposure among your team? Consider these situations before they unfold so you will be able to respond instead of react. Having the plan communicated in advance will allow for a smoother transition as a situation develops. Teams will be able to review the plans and ask questions ahead of time to avoid confusion later on. Individual state policy and guideline changes may be coming at a varying pace, but use the information coming from states with higher COVID-19 cases to help plan your future emergency operating procedures (EOPs).
Communicate with Your Clients
With each level of EOPs, be sure to share that information clearly and consistently with your clients. They also need to understand the seriousness of this virus and see the value in the temporary changes you implement to keep everyone safe and free of illness. Though you should be sending your new processes through email and social media, be sure to walk clients through the new processes over the phone when they book or during confirmations. This is a whole new reality for them too, so making clear expectations of their new visit processes is critical. Much like all of your other services, ensure that your team can communicate the value of your EOPs. Your team needs to be able to explain the “why” behind these new processes so your clients can fully appreciate their benefit.
Honor How You Feel
And above all else, communicate with yourself. That’s right, you need to look inward and ask yourself, “How am I?” “How do I feel?” Give yourself permission to take a minute and breathe. Turn off the TV. Close your Facebook app. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Even if it’s just for a few minutes. We can’t deny that this is a crazy time for all of us and it’s OK to feel something about it. Be real with your staff and know that you’re allowed to be human. Your team is looking to you for guidance and leadership. Be a model of transparency and vulnerability. Communicate the very real situation at hand and be honest about what the future may hold for your practice. It may not be easy, but you can do this. Ask for help and support when you need it because we’re all in this together.