As part of the country works to recover from Hurricane Harvey and all eyes are on Hurricane Irma, employers are left wondering how they should prepare.
There is naturally the business continuity aspect, but beyond that, there is a very important human element as to how we respond to our employees in times of emergency, especially natural disasters. No matter the emergency, each individual is impacted differently, and how an employer responds can have lasting effects on both their employees and business.
Preparedness is key to ensuring your company can weather any disaster, which can be difficult amid many unknown variables. Below are three steps for starting your natural disaster plan.
- Evaluate: Consider what natural disasters are possible for both your physical building locations as well as your employee working locations.
- Do any of your employees work at a client site?
- Do you have remote employees that work from home?
- Do you have employees who travel frequently?
- Prepare: Build and document a preparation plan for all aspects of the business.
- Do you have a communication notification process?
- Have decision makers been identified to make the necessary, and sometimes tough, calls?
- Do employees know each of their roles in helping the company prepare?
- This is an important step for many aspects – physical security, IT protection, customer service communication.
- Is remote work an option to allow business operations to proceed, even if only for core staff?
- Convey: Ensure employees are aware of the procedures and policy in place. Don’t forget about formal business communication to your customers who may or may not also be directly impacted by the disaster.
When writing any natural disaster plan, it is critical to recognize that you have limited time to prepare the business and taking care of oneself and one’s family is the priority. Even with the best prepared plans, if a disaster occurs many unexpected challenges will come about. Consider these important tips for helping your employees through this time:
- Communication: Have a plan for communicating with your employees. Remember that cell phones may not be available. Secure a place for them to call for a message when they are able to reach out.
- Compassion: Employees at all levels can be affected by a natural disaster. It is important business leaders are compassionate about what each individual may be going through, and do not apply their personal situation to their employees (i.e. “It wasn’t that bad in our area, so we should all get back to work.”).
- Support: Remember your Employee Assistance Programs, and reach out to your benefits partners about other options you may have within your standard plans to help your employees. Also, consider helping employees find other support. For instance, Texas is offering unemployment for disaster relief.
- Flexibility: Schedules will vary as employees respond to their personal situations and flexibility is essential during these events. This is not the time to set requirements and/or strictly track attendance. Is it possible for your people to help by working remotely? Any productivity is better than none during emergencies. Remember the compassion element, too.
- Social responsibility: While many companies are eager to get back up and running, it is important to consider the state of services available. Are schools open? Are roads still closed? Before rushing to open the office, if you are lucky enough to even be able to re-open, take the time to encourage others to help a neighbor. This will not only allow time for things to begin returning to normal, but reflects the culture of a company to boost morale when times are bad. Helping people helps us. Here is an example of a company doing the right thing.
Surviving natural disasters is difficult, but with proper preparation and a thoughtful response, you can successfully navigate these events to get your business and employees back on their feet.