Multiemployer funds have unique circumstances to navigate around this outbreak. Fortunately, there are already a lot of great resources you can leverage as you think through how this may affect your people and their families. But with so much anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus, what should you tell your fund’s participants? And what messages should you prioritize?
One thing to keep in mind during times of uncertainty is that people are looking for guidance on a very personal level. They’re wondering about risk of infection for themselves and their family members. Because the virus is spreading rapidly and because it’s new and unfamiliar, anxiety levels are especially heightened. Part of what is so scary is the unknown: where, when, and how it will hit. Other unknowns are the potential physical and financial costs to themselves and loved ones.
Workers are thinking about how to keep themselves and their family members out of harm’s way. Should they or shouldn’t they commute? What conditions will they find at any specific worksite? What will be the ramifications to their income and benefits if they miss work? A recent study on Americans’ general preparedness for the coronavirus reported that 83% of employed Americans are worried about the potential for lost income if they needed to be quarantined. People who are paid hourly feel this concern more deeply than salaried workers and there has been a lot of media coverage about the potential cost to non-exempt workers. Add to that the potential loss of benefits coverage for failing to earn credit for covered employment, and the possibilities for risk escalate quickly.
Here’s where you come in. You play an incredibly important role in the lives of your participants and their families. So far, much communication has been focused on the nuts and bolts of business continuity, workplace safety, worksite closures, and precautions to prevent infection. These messages are all critical. What’s most important, however, is showing people (not just telling them) that they matter. What can you do to show your union’s members — whether or not they participate in your fund’s benefits — that their health and safety is your primary concern? That may take the shape of broad communication or one-on-one conversations as members contact the fund office.
Here are just a few things you can do to reassure and support your membership:
Be empathetic to participants’ needs and concerns. Keeping the dialogue open is the best way to earn respect and loyalty during uncertain times.
If you haven’t already reached out to members about all the benefits and resources they can leverage, now’s a great time to highlight:
Remember that people’s physical, mental, and financial health are interrelated and impacted by health crises. Keep in mind that your outreach should acknowledge the potential toll on mind, body, and finances.
For more insights into the potential impacts of the coronavirus on your people, be sure to check out these great resources:
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