8 effective strategies for supporting employees after a disaster

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Natural disasters, pandemics and other disruptive events create a host of problems for company leaders. Everything from structural damage to lost productivity and employee assistance must be handled simultaneously.

Although it may be tempting to crack the whip and get back to business as usual as quickly as possible, it’s best to avoid rushing stressed, traumatized employees back to work. They probably won’t be able to focus on their jobs until they have a handle on their situation, and they deserve the time and support it takes to get there.

Remember what the “H” stands for

There’s a reason we call it “human” resources. At the end of the day, every organization is about people: those who work with us and those we serve. So, when a disaster or crisis of any kind strikes, the human element should take priority over business and industry. It really is that simple.

Compassion and clear communication can foster long-lasting results, such as increased camaraderie among employees and loyalty that transcends your organization. Doing what’s right for those in need will resonate not only with your entire workforce but also your customers.

Here are a few tips to help you find the right balance between what the company needs and what individuals need in order to heal.

1. Communicate frequently through multiple channels

During and after a disaster, employees need to know what’s going on at the office and what’s expected of them. When helping employees deal with change, it’s important to restore some sense of normalcy.

Be the voice of reason and source of comfort your employees need during this critical time, using a straightforward tone that conveys confidence and security. You don’t want to make false promises, but your messaging should be supportive and hopeful rather than despondent.

Use every channel available, including company-wide and department-level emails, messages posted on your company intranet and internet sites, communication apps, texts, social media accounts and even signs posted onsite.

Using multiple channels simultaneously helps you reach people wherever they are, which can vary in a disaster, depending on the availability of power and access to desktops or mobile devices.

Check in regularly with your employees and encourage them to do the same. Keep in mind that power shortages and outages are common during disasters, so make your messages as brief as possible.

2. Be specific about next steps

Once the initial impact and shock of a devastating event have passed, everyone’s attention will begin to turn toward cleanup and restoration efforts. As this phase gets underway, it’s especially important to keep your workforce informed about what’s next.

Don’t assume your team knows what you expect, especially for unprecedented events. Your communication with them should spell out everything in very literal terms, such as:

  • Office hours for the days/weeks ahead (including modified or regular schedules)
  • Flexibility to work remotely or part-time (if that’s an option)
  • How to log time off work due to a disaster (PTO or weather day, etc.)
  • Whether it’s okay to bring their children into the office if school is out
  • How often they need to update their supervisor on their availability
  • Which parts of the building are unsafe or not functional (if applicable)
  • Road conditions and traffic work-arounds
  • Dress codes, if relaxed from your usual protocol

Depending on the disaster and how your company fared, you may need to update employees on work hours and traffic once or twice a day. To build a sense of normalcy, try to send your messages on a regular schedule, for example, every morning at 7 a.m. and every evening at 5 p.m.

3. Facilitate recovery assistance

There’s no way to sugar-coat this: Employees recovering from a natural disaster or other crisis are going to need support.

Your company may have special funds earmarked for employee assistance. But even if it doesn’t, you can still make this difficult time a little easier for your employees by putting them in contact with organizations that can help them. Include contact information (links to websites, phone numbers and physical addresses) for federal and local agencies, churches and community centers.

4. Coordinate volunteer efforts

Your employees who fared well through the disaster will naturally want to help their coworkers and the surrounding community.

Giving employees the means to support their coworkers and community helps reduce the stress everyone is feeling, whether directly or indirectly impacted. It also creates a source of pride and purpose when employees are able to work with their company to support fellow employees and the community. Continue reading here…

Credit: Insperity

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