Collier Legal Search

Leading Your Firm After a Disaster: Hurricane Harvey

Does your firm have a disaster and recovery plan? Here are some items to consider including in your plan. 

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, many business owners have reopened their doors and are attempting to resume normal business operations. However, considering the tremendous impact that the event had in our region, it is probably safe to assume that there may well be a new normal for some time to come. Supporting your staff during and after a catastrophe requires lots of compassion and understanding. Also, be mindful that stress levels will be high during the recovery period. As a business owner, manager or team leader, there are several steps you can take to help your employees manage their new challenges and make the transition back to work as smooth as possible:

1) Assess Basic Needs – By now, management should have made contact with every member of the staff and taken stock of their situations, as well as what they may be dealing with regarding their homes or their loved ones. Some of your employees may have come through the storm rattled, but unscathed. Others may have lost everything.  Find out who may need shelter, food, clothing, transportation, pet care, child care, a rental truck, storage space or any of the many goods and services they need to begin normalizing their lives. Provide them with contact information for aid groups or any support that the firm or coworkers can offer. The sooner they can address their basic needs, the easier it will be for them to try to return to their normal lives.

2) Provide Ongoing Communication – Voicemail, email, company intranet or social media are all useful means to keep employees apprised of any company updates throughout the response and recovery phases. Remind your team that their jobs are important and secure. Provide regular and clear communication with updates on the business’ restoration progress.

3) Make workplace adjustments – Once the office is safe to return to, management may need to adjust some office rules and procedures. Dress codes, rules about children in the office, and restrictions on using telephones and the Internet for personal business may all need to be temporarily adjusted in the post-disaster period. It may be difficult for staff to get to and from work on time with new traffic patterns and gridlock on the freeways. Flexible hours or allowing your employees to work remotely may alleviate some stress around these issues. Employees may also need unexpected time off to address their home and family situations. Compassion and patience about these business interruptions will be remembered and appreciated by team members.

4) Maintain physical health – Exhaustion and stress can lower resistance to disease, decrease alertness, and cause impaired judgment. After an initial crisis period, observe employees for signs of physical, mental or emotional exhaustion.  The same employees who work all day diligently may be returning home to many more hours of work to repair or reconstruct their homes.

5) Encourage mental wellness –  It is important to encourage discussion as survivors of disasters often need to talk about what they have experienced. Consider providing an information break area where employees can gather for lunch or breaks with their co-workers. If your firm offers an EAP program, provide your employees with an update of what it covers and how to schedule appointments.

Collier Legal Search is here for you and can help answer any staffing questions you have during this recovery process. We support you and continue to keep you and your families in mind during this difficult time.