In the last couple of weeks the United States watched in horror as Hurricane Matthew left a trail of destruction. Some journalists compare the effects of the devastation to that of Hurricane Katrina, the storm that breached the New Orleans levees. The city was subsequently submerged under water with residents scrambling to survive by any means, including retreating to their attics and eventually, to their rooftops. Once the waters receded, the survivors and industries of New Orleans were left to pick up the pieces and figure out how to move forward.

As a native of the Gulf Coast I am very familiar with hurricanes, even though I have never experienced the degree of devastation that Matthew and Katrina inflicted.

I am also a 20+ year veteran of the Human Resources arm of organizations and have been involved in a number of devastating events that have impacted those organizations and their employees, including myself; one of which was personally being present at the mass shooting in San Bernardino. I’ll be addressing from a broad perspective the organization to work together with the employees to succeed
Watching the hurricane devastation unfold on media outlets lead me to ask myself, “How can employers assist staff who have lost so much, but yet, must return to work?”

Over the next couple of weeks my blogs will give suggestions to employers on how they can assist impacted employees. I’ll also be addressing, how from a broad perspective the organization can work together with the employees in order to succeed in their business during this challenging time.

Due to the magnitude of destruction which included 500 year flooding, washed out roads, felled trees and downed public services, many employees will not be able to report to work whether it is because they suffered personal losses, or the business they worked for is unable to open its doors.

However, for organizations fortunate enough to be able to open for business , I hope they consider creating a “pause button” in which the organization takes a step back and surveys the situation from a very high level.

During this time, establishments could consider giving employees “paid time off” to decompress and recover.

Reactions to a disaster vary by person, and an organization’s approach to assisting their workforce needs to be flexible. Some employees will be in shock and “numb” to what is happening around them, while others will immediately react to the situation.

• When you speak to employees, assure them their jobs are secure while also letting them know they are being paid for necessary time off to get their personal losses under control. Assure them their welfare comes first, and that you will be calling them at a designated time to find out what their personal situation is and what they need from the organization.
• On the follow up call, ensure your employees have pertinent contact information on available company resources.
• Once the situation has been assessed, communicate to your employees the length of paid time off that is available.
• If they are unable to return to work at that time, the next step will be based on their needs coupled with those of the organization which could include time off without pay.

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I recently had a conversation with a manager who used to work in Aurora, Colorado in the Aurora Mall located next door to the theater where the 2012 Aurora Mall Shootings occurred. She explained that after the shootings, employees were not given time off, and when they failed to report to work, they were terminated under the company’s attendance policy. In turn, she resigned, saying she could not work for an employer who did not value their employees.

Giving employees paid time off communicates to staff that the company cares for the well-being of their workers. Paid time off allows employees to focus on their situation rather than worrying about whether their job is safe, or whether they will be okay financially if they take time off.

This approach positively contributes to your organization’s image. Staff will not have to choose between their job or their personal life. In addition, paid time off in extenuating circumstances helps an organization’s overall well-being because it helps retain quality employees.

About Alicia

20 years ago I had no idea other people didn’t recognize and interpret body language the way I did. It was just something I picked up on naturally.
I am a national conference speaker, facilitator, and coach, specializing in non-verbal communication. I received my Master of Science in Human Resources from the University of Houston.
My passion is helping others become influential so that they can reach their career and business goals.

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