How to Communicate with Your Employees During Challenging Times

In the midst of this global pandemic, your employees may have questions and many of them may be looking to you for answers—on everything from market volatility to retirement plan concerns, budgeting best practices and working from home.

These topics can be stressful, but conversations with your employees don’t have to be. A positive communication strategy does not mean glossing over hard conversations; instead, it can encourage meeting challenging topics head-on.  Here are a few tips to help you.

Focus on the Long-Term

Although we have seen extraordinary plunges and snapbacks in the market, historically the stock market tends to rise over time. With that in mind, it may be important to help your employees focus on their long-term retirement savings goals rather than reacting to short-term market movement. Consider sharing market insights and commentary1 that helps them put volatility in a broader context and educates them on how they can focus on their overall financial picture.

Keep Eyes on Goals

It is natural and normal for your employees to feel concerned about their 401(k) plans in a volatile market. With the added worries about the global pandemic and employment uncertainty, employees may find themselves in a burdensome position and may need to pull from their retirement savings. The passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act has made accessing savings easier, but it is a decision that has long-term ramifications and should be made carefully.

As a plan fiduciary and decision-maker for your company, it’s important to note that you are not required to offer the expanded coronavirus-related distribution (CRD) or loan options. You get to decide which of these CARES Act provisions to enact and which not to. This is an opportunity to reflect on the goals of the retirement plan and, if appropriate, encourage employees to keep their eyes on the long-term goal. You should discuss any potential changes to your retirement plan with your legal and tax advisors to determine what steps you must take before making any changes.

Consider Lending a Helping Hand

A silver lining to this global pandemic is increased financial awareness. Many employers are taking action to help employees affected by the circumstances. If you are interested in starting, expanding and/or enhancing the usage of financial wellness benefits, you are not alone. Lend a hand by providing resources to help your employees understand how everyday spending impacts their financial lives.

To help you provide education about navigating personal finances during the COVID-19 crisis, visit Morgan Stanley’s resource and education site.2 There you’ll find helpful information about managing finances and adjusting your budget to your new normal.

Remember the Human Element

We are an adaptive society and are better prepared to handle remote work more than ever before. Luckily, the technology we have widely available has allowed millions of people to work and stay connected from home. However, social distancing can take a toll. For many people, coworkers are a main source of daily human interaction, and that is why during these strange times team communication should be both effective and compassionate.

Striking this balance can be difficult, especially with larger teams. However, you might find success by following a bulleted agenda during team meetings. This will help ensure that key topics are discussed while allowing a bit of positive social interaction. Allowing time for your team to connect with colleagues they no longer see in-person every day may be a great morale booster.

Working from home doesn’t have to mean being alone. Here are a few team-building tips:

  • Coffee Break Connection: Consider hosting a weekly meeting that is just chatting as if over coffee.
  • Set Boundaries: While the pandemic is top of mind, many people find themselves experiencing fatigue. You could monitor and change the subject or set aside specific time to address COVID-19-related issues.
  • Friendly Competition: Introducing a workplace competition to focus and motivate employees from home is a great way to engage them, whether it is a work-related sales goal or a fitness goal. Competition is a great way to rally the team.

Turning the Corner to a New Normal

As the world begins to slowly emerge from quarantine and we begin the road to recovery, many employees have questions about the new normal. During these unprecedented times, it is important to support each other, concentrate on things within our control, take lessons from the past and keep positively focused on the future.

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1Morgan Stanley Keeping Market Volatility in Perspective site:

2Morgan Stanley COVID-19 Personal Finance Resource Hub:


This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not an offer to buy or sell or a solicitation of any offer to buy or sell any security or other financial instrument or to participate in any trading strategy. This material does not provide individually tailored investment advice and has been prepared without regard to the individual financial circumstances and objectives of persons who receive it.

Information contained herein has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC does not guarantee their accuracy or completeness.

Tax laws are complex and subject to change. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”), its affiliates and Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors and Private Wealth Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice and are not “fiduciaries” (under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code or otherwise) with respect to the services or activities described herein except as otherwise provided in writing by Morgan Stanley and/or as described at Individuals are encouraged to consult their tax and legal advisors (a) with any questions regarding the CARES Act, (b) before establishing a retirement plan or account, and (c) regarding any potential tax, ERISA and related consequences of any investments made under such plan or account.

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