Guiding your business through the

coronavirus crisis

4A’s guidance on coronavirus

4A’s Policies, Resources, and Guidance on Coronavirus contains all organization guidance on business travel, in-person events and training, and remote work; additional resource links; and employee comms models from two member agencies. Visit the page here.

Please contact 4A’s if you have any questions regarding our policies.

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Join the 4A’s in supporting The Ad Council’s “It’s Up to You” Vaccine Education Initiative.


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4A’s Policies

As COVID-19 news and developments evolve, the 4A’s has instituted the following staff policies:

  1. Business travel: We have currently placed a travel ban on both domestic and international travel.
  2. In-person events/training: We are evaluating and/or rescheduling on a case-by-case basis.
  3. Remote work: All 4A’s employees will work remotely until further notice, although our offices will remain open for those who need to use them. All-staff remote work contingency plans have been established (e.g., remote video conference updates; instructions to bring laptops, power cords, and necessary files home at the end of every day, should the building restrict access; voicemail message recordings and notifications via email).

While these measures have been put in place with the safety of our employees and members in mind, we understand each of our member agencies must make the best decisions for their employees and businesses.

Additional Resources

As part of our efforts to keep you updated on the evolving impact of the coronavirus outbreak, we thought we’d share the following information to help guide your business decisions:

  • Exclusive 4A’s Research content, in partnership with consumer intelligence platform Suzy: a March 9 survey of 1,000 consumers on their workplaces’ responses to coronavirus
  • Also from Suzy: a webinar on coronavirus and the state of the U.S. consumer
  • Insights from Forrester Research, including a survey of how employees feel about coronavirus, and a report on the effect of coronavirus disinformation on employers’ communication
  • Insights from MIT Sloan Management Review on how companies can respond to coronavirus
  • An infographic from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (available to download): COVID 19: Stop the Spread of Germs

We welcome information from our members related to your coronavirus policies. Sharing best practices may help others in the industry, so please reach out to your 4A’s contact with any guidance.

To that end, two 4A’s members offer sample agency communications messaging for others to use as guidance:

Agency Employee Comms Example 1

Although there have not yet been substantial reported cases of coronavirus in our area, we wanted to get ahead of some questions about how we expect to approach the challenges it may create. It’s difficult to say how extremely this will affect the agency and your families but we want to err on the side of prudence. The following guidelines will come into effect in the (probably inevitable) event that our area sees more than a handful of reported cases of coronavirus:

Q: Prior to outbreak, what kinds of actions can we take around the office?

A: Let your inner germaphobe run free. Wash hands frequently. Cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing—with the inside of your elbow. Less hugs. Fewer handshakes. Use the hand sanitizer we’ve placed throughout the office early and often. Give people dirty looks when they don’t do these things. If you have surfaces you must touch that are frequently touched by others, feel free to use disinfecting wipes to clean these areas periodically (see supply closet). If you can’t find these supplies, let office services know so they can restock. The CDC has an entire microsite dedicated to handwashing, feel free to check it out, especially if you need a handwashing refresher.

Q: If I have cold and flu-like symptoms, what action should I take (fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties)?

A: Stay home. Let your manager know by phone and stay home until symptoms ease. We always encourage you to rest and recover if you’re sick. However, if you’re in that gray area where you might normally come to the office anyway, work from home instead. Although our normal policy avoids work-from-home because we think it reduces our ability to collaborate, getting those around you at work sick makes it worse for everyone.

Q: What if you’ve traveled to a region having a coronavirus outbreak or have close family, friends, or have close contact with groups that have reported cases of coronavirus but you yourself are feeling healthy?

A: Proactively let your manager know by phone and decide together whether it might make sense to work from home for a period of time.

Q: If we are working from home due to one of the above, do we still have to attend our normal set of meetings?

A: Yes, we will work to continue with our standard practices in a modified form for increased remote participation. We are prepared to activate additional video conference access numbers if the need arises to allow us to work as well as possible under the circumstances. We are also prepared to activate remote collaboration tools (e.g. Miro.com) to substitute for our card-based activities. In such a case, use of Slack will become more important.

Q: How should this affect the way we work together?

A: For now, we don’t expect to change our ways of working except the increased use of technology if we have significant remote workers.

Q: How do we expect this to impact our clients?

A: This may have a substantial impact on those of our clients that directly serve the public and consumers, requiring additional efforts in some areas and postponing other activities. The impact will be smaller for clients that don’t directly face the public but may still be felt due to shifts in things like industry conference rescheduling. We will have to be flexible and understanding of the challenges our clients may face as their plans shift. We encourage you to think proactively on behalf of our clients about things we can do to assist them in handling their marketing in this evolving environment. This is a new one for most of our clients and they can really use your best thinking. Coordinate with your account managers if you have thoughts in this area.

Q: If I have follow-up questions about policies related to this, who can I contact?

A: For now, HR is tracking our current policies related to coronavirus. Reach out to them and they can refer you to the right person for your specific question.

Q: Do you have some factual information about the virus itself, progress of outbreaks, preventative measures, treatment, etc.?

A: We’d refer you to the CDC website which is far more authoritative on this subject than this email could ever be. Keep in mind that although it is a serious illness that is forecasted to spread widely, healthy individuals tend to experience limited symptoms. We need to take this seriously, but without panic


Agency Employee Comms Example 2

The world health community continues to monitor closely the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes, named “coronavirus disease 2019” (COVID-19). At this time, no one knows how severe this outbreak will be. Given this uncertainty, and the fact that the seasonal influenza (flu) virus is also widespread, we are taking proactive steps to address a number of business concerns. First and foremost, we want to maintain a safe workplace and encourage and/or adopt practices protecting the health of employees, customers, visitors or others. We also want to ensure the continuity of business operations in the event of a pandemic.

We ask all employees to cooperate in taking steps to reduce the transmission of communicable diseases in the workplace. Employees are reminded of the following:

  • STAY HOME if you’re feeling sick.
    • Please do not come into the office when you’re sick. We appreciate all that you do for our clients and your team but showing up with the sniffles is not one of them. If you’re stressed about your to-do list, fear not. You can probably still accomplish a decent amount without ever changing out of your PJ’s and leaving your home. That includes those who say “I sound worse than I am.” While it’s true that you may be feeling better than your coughing or congestion would suggest, we’d rather you rest up at home.
    • We’re great at our jobs and are highly committed. We don’t doubt that for a second, but please trust that your team’s got your back for a day or two. Will a meeting get delayed? Maybe. Is a ZoomWebex/Skype/MS Team or call as good as meeting in-person? Probably not. But will the world implode? No. It will be far worse if numerous other people get sick as a result of you coming into the office.
    • Please remember to take work devices home each day, and to also carry your power charger with you. This way you are ready to work from home if you are not feeling well or are notified of a building closure.  More on the tech/connectivity aspect of working from home to follow in a separate email.

We know that getting sick sucks. Getting behind on work also sucks. In a perfect world, neither would ever happen. Unfortunately, we know that’s not the case. So, give yourself a break the next time you’re not feeling well and stay at home. In doing so, you’re also doing a solid for everyone else who works with you.

  • TRAVEL

If you are returning from personal or business trips from China, Japan, Hong Kong, Iran, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, or Northern Italy, you are asked to:

    • not to return to the office for 14 calendar days even if you don’t show signs of illness
    • contact HR to discuss work from home options
    • seek medical attention if necessary and keep HR informed of any new developments or if assistance is needed

The above also applies to those who has had a member of their household return from a trip to any of the countries listed above.

  • CLEANLINESS AND SANITATION

Let’s all follow best practices (as highlighted in the CDC guidelines) to avoid the spread of germs and viruses in our workspace including:

    • Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces. Disinfectant wipes will be provided around key areas of the office and hand sanitizer is available for use in all Conference rooms and around the office.
    • Washing your hands often. Use instant hand sanitizers when soap and water are not available.
    • In the meantime, we are also coordinating with our office cleaning contractors to enhance their cleaning protocols where possible.

We will continue to monitor and provide updates as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

In the meantime, please check this page for general news and updates. For the latest factual information regarding coronavirus, please visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.N. World Health Organization.