COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Guidance for Company Leaders (Awaken Email to Clients)

Michelle MiJung Kim
Awaken Blog
Published in
6 min readMar 6, 2020


Image Source: CDC

These are external communications Awaken sent to our clients in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus). Parts of the communication were redacted for confidentiality reasons. We are sharing our communication to help other business leaders respond to this uncertain time.

Email #1: Sent on March 5, 2020

Dear Community,

During this uncertain and anxiety-inducing time, we’re committed to communicating proactively with all of our clients and extending our support as we navigate these complexities together.

While the overall risk of COVID-19 within the U.S. remains low according to the CDC, we want to take a thoughtful and proactive approach by outlining our current stance and contingency plans for the future.

Awaken’s COVID-19 Response Guiding Principles

  • The physical and psychological well-being of our team is a top priority
  • We will honor our commitment to our clients by adapting to the evolving circumstances
  • Preventative measures should be taken seriously to contain and reduce further harm to our team and the broader community in which we are part of
  • We will stay informed and share thoroughly verified, accurate information in order to fight against misinformation and fear-mongering
  • We will guide workplace leaders to respond inclusively and equitably to the situation, with a focus on the most marginalized workforce who will be most impacted by COVID-19

You can review our formal response document with a detailed action plan and additional resources here.


Currently Scheduled In-Person Workshops

Please contact us ASAP if any of the scheduled in-person workshops need to be postponed to a future date. Your prompt notice gives us time to alert our facilitation team and minimize costly operational changes internally — thank you in advance for your consideration and care in this matter. Given the unprecedented circumstance, we will waive our standard rescheduling fee for all clients until the situation improves.

Future Delivery Option: Remote-Friendly Workshops

We know continuing to make progress on your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion education goals is important to you, perhaps even more so during a time like this. We are working diligently to design remote-friendly versions of our existing workshops in anticipation of your evolving needs. Please consult with our Customer Success Team if you’d like to continue providing workshops to your teams remotely.

Travel Advisories

In order to prioritize our team’s safety, we are banning any trips to high-risk (Level 2 and Level 3) countries as determined by the CDC. Currently, these countries include: China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, and Japan. We are monitoring the situation closely and will update you if any of your travel requests (international or domestic) cannot be honored at this time. We appreciate your understanding and collaboration.


  • Call out racism and xenophobia. With uncertainty comes fear and anxiety. When we’re fearful, we’re prone to making hasty decisions that cause harm. Anti-Asian/Chinese racism is on the rise globally as well as biased media coverage and narratives. Please be vigilant about calling in harmful and biased narratives among your teams regarding coronavirus.
  • How we discuss the situation matters. Using statements intended to comfort others such as “only old and sick people need to worry” or “you’re young and healthy, you’re fine” can have an unintended consequence of further marginalizing those who are most vulnerable. Please encourage everyone to prioritize the most marginalized by taking the issue seriously, ensuring equitable resource and supplies allocation, and doing their part to minimize potential transmission.
  • Consider the impact of the situation on folks who are caregivers to the elderly, infants, and/or immunocompromised folks, who experts have determined are most prone to being severely impacted.
  • Mitigate dissemination of false information designed to spread fear and hysteria. Share only verified information by trusted sources to fight against misinformation.
  • Consider the impact of business/office closure on your contingent workforce (e.g., custodial staff, kitchen staff, small business vendors) and strategize on potential solutions to support them.
  • Proactively check in with your employees to ensure they feel physically and psychologically safe. Institute flexible policies broadly so employees do not have to fear negative repercussions for asking for time off or remote working days.
  • Ensure remote work experience is inclusive and equitable for all employees.
  • Take precautions to keep yourself and others healthy: ensure employees and contractors can easily access supplies and medical care they need to stay healthy.
  • Wash your hands often (20 seconds!) and avoid exposure when you’re not well!

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any concerns or questions. This is an unprecedented event for Awaken (when will running a business ever get easier!?) and I appreciate all of our collective wisdom, grace, and care.

We are committed to serving as your trusted partner during this challenging time and beyond.

In community,

Michelle on behalf of Team Awaken

Email #2: Sent on March 11, 2020

Dear Clients,

Awaken has been monitoring the coronavirus situation closely since our last communication (copied below). This morning, the World Health Organization announced that the situation has now escalated to a global pandemic.

Given this information as well as the current number of confirmed cases in regions where we operate, we’ve decided to update our Travel Advisory Level to Level 2 for the Bay Area and New York City. Following our COVID-19 Response Plan, we are putting a temporary pause on all in-person workshops for the month of March.

In addition to prioritizing the physical and psychological safety of our team and our clients, we are focused on slowing down the rate of transmission to help significantly reduce fatalities in the community and prevent hospital capacity overload.

100% of our in-person workshops scheduled for March have already been rescheduled as a result of your swift response, and we appreciate your leadership during this unpredictable time. We will continue to monitor the situation and be in communication with you regarding April in-person workshops.

In the possible event that we need to continue social distancing in April, we are positioned to deliver our workshops virtually upon your request — please continue to work with our Customer Success Lead and keep us up to date on your organization’s desired course of action.

Our team is working around the clock to disseminate useful information to you and to provide thoughtfully designed virtual workshops as alternative options to meet your needs.

Additional Things to Consider This Week

  • You may hear frustrated employees characterizing the current situation as a “massive overreaction” — share data and explain why reducing transmission is an important course of action to ensure the safety of everyone
  • Share self-care tips for working remotely — a sudden and prolonged social isolation may cause feelings of alienation or anxiety for some folks
  • Empower your managers to practice inclusive leadership in times of crisis. Encourage them to check in with their direct reports and set clear expectations for working remotely to avoid non-inclusive behaviors rooted in mistrust or bias that may disproportionately impact marginalized employees

We know this is an especially stressful time for people leaders. Please remember to take care of yourself and know that your leadership is so appreciated and needed. We are right here with you, ready to support you in any way we can.

Thank you for your partnership as we adapt to this rapidly-changing situation.

Michelle & Team

Did you find this post helpful? Subscribe to Awaken’s Newsletter!

About Awaken

We exist to create compassionate space for uncomfortable conversations to develop inclusive leaders and teams. We’re tired of surface level conversations around diversity and inclusion — let’s go deeper. It’s time for real conversations with real people. Check us out at!

We are hiring! Check out our careers page for open roles.



Michelle MiJung Kim
Awaken Blog