Helping Employees Through a Disaster

If you haven’t heard by now, there is a(nother) hurricane coming – a BIG one – that a good many of us will be feeling the effects of. As I write this, Irma has strengthened to a Cat 5, with winds up to 175. I’m praying for the people on the Islands she will be sweeping through. Hopefully, she will turn south but her path is expected to go North.

That means, Florida and states upward will feel her impact. Having lived through 4 back in 2004, I don’t take this lightly; I remember when Charley was predicted to come through, I was in line at a grocery store getting some supplies, ‘just in case,’ and the clerk making the statement “I’m not worried, this is going to be nothing.” That night, at 9pm – as predicted – Charley came through and there was a lot of destruction. I was without power for 7 days – it was a horrible time.

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Those memories, along with the recent devastation in Texas, is making more people in preparation mode. But, it’s also increasing anxiety and worry. This can be distracting and have far-reaching effects, particularly in the workplace: no focus and poor performance; illness and absenteeism; and worst of all, the rumors that can spread, leading to more worry. Employees with children, ill or elderly parents, and pets will have even more worry for how to prepare them – where to go, what to do, etc.

As an employer, this is the time to make plans for what to do with your business, as it could sustain some damage, as well; if anything, workflow could be disrupted. But you also want to take time to help your employees through this so they can feel calmer and do their daily work. Here are some considerations to help n your planning:

  • Have a plan: this should not be an issue if you already have contingency plans in place (surprised by those who don’t), so go step-by-step on all considerations for how you would prepare prior to and after a disaster. Items to consider: safe-keeping of computers and other big items, as well as records and other paperwork; building infrastructure, such as windows and doors, in case of flooding or high winds; clearing any items outside that could be projectiles. Also include personnel who would be used to help with these items, as well as after if clean-up is needed. The plan would also address time-off for employees and how pay would be addressed; who would be used or on-call, and how you would communicate with them (text, phone, etc.). Driving to work should be considered, especially after. Knowing that the organization has emergency plans in place goes a long way to keeping fears down
  • Set good goals: to keep employees focused, set clear goals for them to achieve; this will take their mind off of their worries and put it to tangible actions and results
  • Provide emotional support, which includes communicating with them: get your team together, even if it’s in small groups, to hear their concerns and relate plans in place. This goes a long way in dispelling any rumors or untruths, hearing concerns which shows that you care, all of which can calm employees and feeling safe
  • Create a list of resources for before/after – identify a list of resources that employees may need in preparations: shelters, sandbags, tree removal, relief agencies (Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.), disaster preparedness list of items to have, agencies to help with ill or sick relatives (if medication needs refrigerated, signup for first to have power on) – these are just a few suggestions
  • Allow some time off, if needed: be flexible with work-time so employees can prepare, if need be. This would also apply after, as some employees could be harder hit than others
  • Ensure your policies & procedures are current and conveyed to all – this is the time to pull out your safety policies to ensure they are up-to-date and to make any amendments to them. Be sure they are redistributed to employees, which could be done through the intranet (if you have one), through email, or through departmental meetings. This will prevent headaches later
  • Lead well – this refers to keeping calm and being the example to employees; when the leader is calm and in control, others will take the lead

While it is unknown, at this time, the effects this storm will have, you don’t want to be unprepared, which could have effects for years, and not just monetary. Your people are what up your organization, so taking time to help them through will ensure its longevity; longer-reaching impacts are engagement and loyalty by workers. Let’s all pray that Irma goes away but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Committed to Your Success Coaching & Consulting focuses on workplace happiness and organizational success. If you need help gaining clarity on your business or career goals, why not get some help – stop the struggle and call today to get started! http://www.cyscoaching.com or barbara@cyscoaching.com

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