5 Ways to Help Employees Affected by Disaster

by Jennifer Goforth Gregory on November 6, 2012
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Small businesses were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, but for many people the commercial damage pales in comparison to the personal losses incurred as the result of the storm.

If any of your employees have lost power, their pet, or a loved one — or are coping with damaged or destroyed vehicles or homes — it’s in your best interest to help them get back on their feet as soon as possible

Here are five things you can do to help:

1. Ask employees what they need most. The first thing you should do is ask people what their most pressing needs are. They might be worried about a lost pet and need help calling local animal shelters. Or maybe their biggest need is finding temporary housing, for which you can help locate various options. Or perhaps they just need to find a place to charge their cell phone, check their email, and take a shower. Have employees make lists of their top priorities — and then begin working to see how you can help them make their recovery a little easier.

2. Provide flexible working arrangements. Consider your current staffing needs and determine how much flexibility you can provide employees in crisis without hurting the company. Providing employees with a few paid days off to deal with their personal situations can go a long way toward relieving their stress. If that isn’t possible, consider allowing flexible work hours during the recovery.

3. Give other staff members an opportunity to help. If most of your employees were unaffected by the storm, they’ll most likely want to help their co-workers recover in any way that they can. Encourage employees to donate time, money, or clothing — based on the circumstances — to help their colleagues. If an employee’s personal losses will not be covered by insurance, consider passing a hat. Those who lost belongings and clothing may also appreciate gently used items, too.

4. Help your employees find available resources. Often when you are in personal crisis, you don’t have the time or energy to research the resources that are available to you. Help your employees find the proper agencies and financial assistance that they need. For people in the New York area, Today.com has a great list of resources. Also, check the Red Cross website for open shelters and other aid options.

5. Loan the employee equipment or resources. If your employees lost personal computers or cell phones during the storm, consider letting them use company-issued electronics in the short term. For businesses with company cars, you may also want to consider loaning a vehicle to employees who lost theirs in the flood. Check with your legal counsel for potential liability issues.

Jennifer Gregory is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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