Recent history has taught us that natural disasters – wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis – can occur all around the world. If your employees are involved in one of these tragic events, they will need your support to recover from the trauma and to return to their normal routine. That includes being a productive part of your organization.
A key factor in lessening the impact of a natural disaster is having a communication plan in place. Do employees call in to a supervisor once they are safe? Is there a designated line for them to call to find out
the condition of their workplace or the expectations of them reporting to work?
From a relocation perspective, having resources for effected employees to contact during these emergencies will be invaluable. A list of potentially affected employees can be generated using the origin or destination of a disaster zone by operations management and distributed to the transferee-facing teams. Calls can be made from the relocation management provider, with language and time zone considerations, to assess any potential damages or emergent need. The relocation provider can assist with relocating the family to a safer area by utilizing the help of their temporary living providers and moving them if necessary.
Some other suggestions for how your relocation provider can assist your effected employees:
- Help with locating hotels in the event of evacuations.
- Assistance on breaking leases to ensure safety, locating new housing for guests, and issuing explicit warnings about evacuation and their protocols.
- Personally checking on the wellbeing of families to ensure that they are safe.
- Movers keeping goods in storage as a safety precaution to both employees and drivers.
- Reimbursing employees for canceled flights (for area orientation, home leave, etc.)
Coping with the aftermath of any disaster can have a devastating effect on the employee and their family. Once they get past the initial shock, they’ll look to their employer to help them recover and continue to pursue their livelihood. When a crisis causes a disruption in business operations, balancing the need to support your employees while continuing to manage the business is crucial.
A critical part of a recovery plan is to have crisis management plans in place and experienced crisis response personnel at the ready to reduce the inherent impact of the situation on the employee. A well-developed recovery plan will go a long way in restoring normal business operations as soon as possible.
In some instances, the ability to work or get to a work location can be compromised. Power outages, disruptions in public transportation, no internet access, or in the worst case, employees being displaced from their homes, will take an emotional toll on your people. The consequences may include increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, or even resignation. Having trained mental health professionals available for your affected employees can be a major asset in aiding the healing process and helping them return to a stable environment.
The HR Daily Advisor states:
There are a lot of actions employers can take to positively impact the situation. Employers are in a unique position to be able to directly impact how quickly their employees are able to get back on their feet.
Here are some examples of employer actions that could help:
- Allow employees to work from home. This could help employees who are struggling to deal with home issues after a major disaster, but it is also simply practical: many places may be without power, and the workplace could be one of them. For any employee who is able to work from home, it could mean the employer gets back to productivity faster. It could also mean the employees have to take less PTO, which they could be grateful for.
- Consider suspending call-in rules in the days immediately after a disaster. This is particularly relevant if you have a strict call-in policy that could result in someone losing their job. Employees may not have access to communication services immediately after a weather event. Consider relaxing the call-in requirements or the discipline that normally results after not calling in properly.
- Consider suspending other policies temporarily, such as strict dress codes, strict “no personal calls” policies, or strict tardiness policies. Having the ability to have this flexibility can go a long way for employees to recover more efficiently.
- Assess how much employees will be paid while unable to come to work. After a disaster, it’s likely there will be some days where either employees are unable to come to the workplace or the workplace itself is not equipped to function. The power may be out, internet may be down, there could be flooding, etc. This presents a complication for employers—how much time must an employee be paid if they’re unable to come in? While this is a more complex topic worthy of discussion, the short version is that hourly employees must only be paid for actual hours worked, while salaried exempt employees must be paid their full salary for any week in which they worked (but they can be required to use PTO for the days they were unable to work). There may be some resentment over following the letter of the law here, so it can be useful for employers to consider giving employees a few extra paid days if the budget will allow it.
- Allow flexible work hours. In the aftermath of a natural disaster there are likely many things at home to attend to—many of which must be attended to during normal working hours. If possible, it may be useful for many employees to be allowed to work non-standard hours, even if only temporarily, in order to manage this better. This can allow some employees to come back to work sooner if they have the flexibility to still deal with issues at home.
- Train supervisory staff about handling stressed employees. In the aftermath of any situation like this, employees are likely to be more stressed and less productive. Employees may have more emotional reactions (and overreactions), anger/frustration and outbursts, or simply be unable to concentrate and do the job well. Train your supervisory team to be empathetic in these situations and to have realistic expectations.