Employee Communication and Safety Messaging in the Hybrid Workplace

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A fire alarm sounds. The weather begins to rage. A hazardous spill in the warehouse. Police report dangerous activity. The return to office takes remote workers out of the safety of their homes and into the health uncertainty of a re-opened workplace.

These are the types of critical moments that demand the most of — the best of — your employee communication and your professional communicators. Emergencies are certainly not predictable. But where you can get ahead of the worst-case scenario — you should be very, very prepared. And as much as that readiness is possible, a workplace communications platform is one of the most effective, impactful tools for protecting your workforce.

From digital signage to mobile alerts to coordinated emails, a dedicated workplace communications platform is critical to safety-based employee communication. Whether it’s sensible precautions or immediate danger, you need to be prepared to deliver urgent alerts that draw attention to special instructions and emergency announcements. These can be set-up and saved in advance, ready to activate at a moment’s notice — manually or automated via integration with a real time news feed of health warnings, safety training, weather advisories, active shooters or any dire circumstance.

In times of less immediate danger, digital message boards, SMS and email can be a consistent educator that reminds all of sensible precautions related to their personal safety, as well as health protocols and procedures. Even as a return to office becomes potentially more stable, companies and individuals will remain focused on health and hygiene — with electronic message boards one of the key components in managing both safety and communication.

It’s no exaggeration to say that a proactive employee communications solution that keeps employees informed in times of crisis — even in advance of crisis — can reduce confusion, avert tragedy, and even save lives.

There’s Safety in Numbers

Whatever your workplace, the statistics tell a story of cost, perception, and benefit — all places where safety-oriented text messages, email and corporate digital signage can make a difference.

From a cost perspective…

  • A worker is injured on the job every 7 seconds
  • 104MM production days are lost due to work-related injury
  • $688bil is lost every year due to preventable injuries
  • The cost of a minor incident is 16X higher than its preventative measure
  • The cost of a serious (or fatal) incident is 48x higher than its preventative measure

From the employee perspective…

  • 30% are afraid to report safety issues
  • 33% in hazard industries don’t believe safety is valued
  • 36% say safety takes a backseat to completing jobs
  • 39% think management does the minimum required by law to ensure safety
  • 50% say safety meetings are too infrequent

From the benefits perspective…

  • Digital signs capture 400% more views than static
  • 63% of people say digital signs capture attention
  • Messages on digital signs have a recall rate of 83%
  • Digital signage for safety reduces workplace injury by 20%

Employee Communication Adds to “Days Without Incident…”

The US National Safety Council reports that 31% of all workplace injuries happen because of over-exertion, 27% due to slips and falls, and 26% “thanks to” poor equipment handling. That and more (transportation accidents, harmful substance exposure, violence) adds up to an annual loss of 11 workdays per person.

Thousands of injuries (and worse) could be prevented if only workers had been better prepared to follow existing protocols. How can your employee communications support, inform and ultimately protect your employees in manufacturing and your warehouse?

These staff don’t have immediate access to computers during work hours and are likely prohibited from using their phones, rendering both email and text as non-starters for this population. Fortunately, digital signage can play a major role in this effort. Whether they’re seen as digital corkboard or electronic information boards, these screens anchor your industrial environment in safety, from line of sight on the production line, to drawing attention for more detail in the cafeteria or break room.

Your employee communication platform is designed for more than your main facility. Workplace digital signage software can broadcast the same safety message to multiple locations — across cities, states, even countries. This keeps all employees on the same page when it comes to safety and promotes a cohesive understanding of your organization’s related policies and protocols.

All it takes is one worker to miss the message, so set your signage to consistently broadcast reminders to all these employees. Weekly informative “safety tips” will encourage adoption through repetition, with bigger initiatives showing up on screen timed to raise awareness of changes or training, such as protective gear certification, proper tool handling, and off-limit areas. A regular rotation through “the rules” for all workers makes adherence more likely, and accidents and injuries more few and far between.

Use “break room tv” to cycle through safety at work quotes. Spotlight team members for completing safety training — or suggesting an improved safety procedure. People love to be recognized, and this positive reinforcement related to safety encourages continued behavior and conversation when it comes to maintaining an accident-free environment.

And in the event of sudden danger — such as a fire or a gas leak — digital signage can offer an emergency broadcast override system. This can coordinate with other alarms to ensure everyone present knows what’s going on and what actions to take to preserve their individual and mutual safety.

A Special Report from the Office of Health & Safety

Our epic health crisis elevated the need for digital information display boards focused on safety. How will you address everything from mild apprehension related to new policies and office layout; to news of a team member with a breakthrough case of COVID? (“I was just in a meeting with that person!”) When it comes to keeping your people safe, there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. It’s impossible to over-communicate in order to keep employees well-informed — and healthier in mind and body.

Think about a series of emails related to the new normal. Does your organization now require vaccinations? Are there exceptions? Who and why? What else might be required, such as masks, or daily health certifications? Minor coughs and sniffles were once considered a necessary “in office” evil; now they can cause company-wide stress. Explain revised guidelines that balance personal health and group expectations related to sick leave and work-from-home. To make these emails even more relevant, your workplace communications platform can automate and target these communications aligned with seasonal illness and location-based health alerts.

Text messaging can deliver short words & picture reminders on new social customs, such as washing hands before taking snacks, wiping down surfaces after use, using only single-use cups and utensils, “cough etiquette”, or skipping the handshakes and high-fives of 2019. A regular cadence of these can communicate important policy changes — but without the formality that can feel too harsh.

As organizations seek to reduce touchpoints and improve accessibility, immersive electronic display boards can step up with temperature screening and virtual receptionist devices that provide wayfinding to rooms, desks and locations marked safe based on factors like time, cleaning, and occupancy. This can be especially useful in alleviating the “first week jitters” of a new layout to the office — or simply being in each other’s space in comparison to years (!) of practicing social distancing.

The health and safety opportunities for digital signage include its ability to act as a guide for traffic flow, helping maintain social distancing and density occupancy. Digital screens will alert occupants of essential safety protocols, perhaps relating training and guidelines in the form of fun safety games in the workplace. Kiosks at key locations can serve as remote reservation displays related to health-focused hoteling and hotdesking.

In the event of an outbreak with one or more employees, your workplace digital signage software can automate displays to act as a kind of “electronic post it board” focused on the facts: how close were you to an infected person, how long were you together, did that person expel viral droplets on or near you, how much did you touch your face afterwards? Animations and diagrams can quickly transform chaos into clarity.

Digital display Board – Screening for a Safe Time

Performance collaborationWhile a multichannel strategy is in the best interests of your employees’ overall safety, the electronic message board is worth some added consideration to get the most out of it in the moments that matter most. However you’re used to thinking about digital signage overall, safety scenarios may benefit from a rethink in terms of your screen design and goals: 10% information, 90% call to action.

A digital display board for the office can help your safety and communication professionals raise awareness and improve the ability of employees and visitors to respond to any type of threat. A single content management system is a central control for the flexible delivery of content tied to multiple emergency scenarios — campus wide or zone by zone. Some key components of digital signage that helps make it different and better than traditional channels:

Visuals: Attention grabbing images and video convey and reinforce critical messaging — far more effectively than static or simply text media. If it’s a time-critical situation, keep your copy short and your fonts large. Consider the use of directional arrows to guide your people where they need to go to take action.

Audio: The best emergency notification systems don’t depend only on what you see, but on what you hear. Sound magnifies imagery to seize attention, tremendously important in an emergency situation. “Intrusive audio” can force people to break out of their work routines and recognize “something’s happening.” (This audio can be coordinated to also play on desktops and company mobile apps, similar to the arresting broadcast effect of an amber alert.) Visual+audio communication can be understood and remembered better than standalone verbal or text information. This positions digital screens as an effective way to convey training and procedural information as well as emergency response alerts.

Strategic locations: Positioned in high-traffic areas, your digital signage is in the right place for the wrong times, ready to be seen by more people with a greater likelihood for attention and understanding of critical safety content. Easy to deploy in even the most remote areas, digital signage helps ensure emergency messages reach everyone. Your workplace communications platform can also communicate directions based on a screen’s physical setting. By drawing from a content library, it can push appropriate content targeted to the location and the employees around it, adjusting for language, volume, tone and style.

Multi-device messaging: The right workplace digital signage software won’t limit your safety alerts to the wall-hanging screens. Strategic and integrated digital communication systems will parallel or push messages to desktop screens, tablets and mobile apps for 360 awareness — and the potential to save lives.

Employee Communication and SMS 4 Safety

As capable as any one form of digital employee communication can be, safety issues or impending danger can always seem one step ahead. By powering your safety strategy with a more-than-capable workforce communications platform, your integrated notifications and alerts have a better chance of outmaneuvering the bad times. While SMS, email and digital signage continue to tie together, they can also operate independent of any one channel — and therefore increase the likelihood of getting noticed and acted on.

In a truly emergency situation, SMS — short message service, or more commonly text messaging — may operate as close to real time information as any of your channels. It may include a mix of your pre-prepared content, up-to-the-second posts from your communications team, or a direct feed from the CAP (common alerting protocol) system. These can be tied into your digital signage, either full screen or in a zone, to supersede previous messages as events unfold.

These alerts have additional capabilities that may not be immediately obvious. While emojis on their own may be a bit too obscure (🔥🌪⚠️) your texts can be geo-targeted to focus on defined areas; configured for multiple languages; include helpful images (such as maps); and even combine both text and audio to meet the needs of hearing or visually impaired employees.

Thought Starters for a Safer Workplace Experience

Smart and strategic internal communications represent your chance to elevate a higher level of safety, whether the need is “take this training” or “take cover.”

The workplace communications platform you choose should provide options for emergency and health message templates that save you time and anxiety when creating a safer workplace expedrience. These easy-to-use designs can be quickly populated with relevant information during an incident, empowering you to reach hundreds of your co-workers in mere minutes. And with targeting capabilities, you can be certain you are focusing awareness and action on the affected employees: when there’s a chemical spill in manufacturing, only those workers will receive your texts or see the alert on their digital signage.

Of course, safety is more than the sudden call of “Danger!” Build on these ideas for using your workforce communications to establish and increase a message of coherent safety awareness and responsibility across your organization.

  1. Email Newsletter – Outline safety standards at least once a month. Share case studies or incident reports, putting reality behind the need for safety.
  2. Signage Says – Increase your signage footprint to where you need to reinforce standards and where employees congregate, such as break rooms and around equipment. Include videos of your employees speaking safety quotes for the workplace to promote shared knowledge
  3. Safe Actions SMS – Text pictures of employees demonstrating safety techniques and practices. These images can also go into emails and up onto electronic message boards. Make your SMS two-way with an option for employees to report on unexpected hazards, encouraging the need to hold each other accountable.

With a continuous flow of new content across these digital channels, you are helping to train your employees and creating a living culture of safety in your workplace

Keeping Your Promise to Take Care of Your Workforce

The world is an unpredictable place. And while a workforce communications platform can’t prevent the worst from happening, it can be an important part of keeping your people aware and safe. No matter your industry or business strategy, you can’t be effective if you haven’t embedded into it the health, safety and well-being of your employees.

The worst-case scenario would be to ignore the worst-case scenarios! Expecting the unexpected isn’t paranoid or pessimistic: it’s proactive and protective. With email, SMS and digital signage targeting and automation, you can have a safe and comprehensive omni-channel communications plan in place — ready to deploy at the moment of need, with the right content for the right channel. With multiple devices delivering audio and visual education and instruction, you are ensured that no one is out of the loop when it matters most.