The Best Ways to Support Employees through a Disaster | EAPA-SA

Disasters, natural or otherwise, or any unforeseen large-scale disruptive event can create a host of problems for organisations, where the knock-on effects ranging from structural damage, to lost productivity and employee assistance, must be handled simultaneously.

When a disaster strikes, taking care of your employees through leadership, clear communication and support can yield positive, long-lasting results and lead to increased camaraderie and loyalty among employees – and have a positive impact with your clients.

Here are six pointers for planning ahead and developing an employer disaster emergency action plan:

  1. Ensure your employee contact information is up-to-date
  • Your communication strategy is only as good as the contact information you have. Make it regular practice to have employees update their personal contact information.
  1. Communicate quickly and effectively through multiple channels

Use every available communication channel at your disposal:

  • Communicate quickly and regularly using organisation-wide or department-level emails, individual SMS and Whatsapp messages, posts on social media accounts and even messages posted on your company internet sites or at your premises, if needed.
  • If necessary designate an external meeting point for employers and staff to meet and engage, one that can be accessed in the event employees cannot access Internet connectivity.
  1. Be specific

Your communication with employees should supply important information in a detailed and very easy to comprehend style. This may include:

  • Office hours for the days ahead – either modified or regular schedules
  • Flexibility to work remotely or part-time – and how to log time spent on or off work
  • How often workers need to update their supervisor on their availability
  • Whether it is in order to bring their children into the office if school is closed
  • If necessary, which parts of the building are unsafe or not functional
  • Road conditions and available public transport options to get to work

4.       Facilitate employee recovery assistance 

Employees who are recovering from a disaster are going to need emotional, and maybe even physical, support.

  • One of the ways you can protect your employees in a crisis situation is by establishing an EAP programme that is able to roll out a pre-planned crisis management solution. This will include a critical incident stress debriefing, where mental health professionals are assigned to your employees to help them learn coping strategies and offer counselling address their concerns in relation to the disaster they have experienced.
  • An EAP crisis management programme can offer a number of services beyond providing emotional support for people who have survived a traumatic event, such as coordinating emergency referrals for food, shelter, and other necessities after a natural disaster.

5.       Take care of your clients

You may be working with a skeleton staff as a result of displaced or disoriented employees.

  • Communicating with customers is essential, so that they understand what has happened and how you are dealing with it.
  • While your clients are likely to be understanding that you are not currently able to provide your normal level of service, let them know what the organisation is able to provide to take care of their most critical requirements, and then make sure to deliver on this promise.
  1. Remember, there is no set rule book for getting “back to normal”

Everyone processes trauma and change differently.

  • Check on your management and employees’ emotional well-being in the weeks that following a disaster or disruptive event. It is very likely that you will be able to discern when there is something residual that is causing an employee to be depressed or anxious in the wake of what happened.
  • Remind your workforce, as often as necessary, of your employee assistance programme (EAP) along with any other resources available to them.