Reducing employee stress through effective disaster planning

Disaster planning is an issue every employer should be thinking about. Whether it’s a flu outbreak, natural disaster, equipment malfunction or a terrorist attack, your business should prepare itself for a break in operations with minimal stress. Employers can create initiatives that will help reduce stress on the business and its employees.

Disaster planning basics
Disaster planning and business continuity refer to the detailed process of continuing business as usual in the event of a disaster. A critical primary step is conducting a business impact analysis. This will help employers identify their most crucial systems and processes, how an outage would effective these processes, and what the impact would be to restore them to use.

Below is a checklist of important elements in a successful disaster plan:

Succession plan for your CEO and top leadership
It’s very important to maintain strong leadership, especially in a time of crises. Leadership will provide order, motivation, and direction for employees to help the business get back on track.
Detailed documentation of your processes and important contact numbers
Be sure to document all your departments’ processes in case you need temporary staff to take over some processes. Indicate who should be contacted first in the event of an emergency – this will usually include the property management and emergency response units.
Up to date inventory of assets
Keep an up-to-date inventory of company assets, including equipment and files. In an event of a fire or flooding, it will be easier to report a loss to your insurance company.
Cross-train all employees
Cross-train all your employees as part of your disaster plan. This will allow for greater efficiency during crises periods.
Off-site meeting place for business continuity
Designate an area where your entire staff can meet, and an area where they can continue business as usual.
Determine alternative communication tools
Determine how managers will stay in communication with their subordinates. It may mean contacting them at home, mobile phone or through text messaging.
Conduct drills
Test out your plan frequently and realistically. Involve your employees in emergency tasks, meeting at your designated off-site area, and in other important elements of your plan.
Communicate plan
Be sure all employees are aware of the plan and have easy access to it.

Create wellness initiatives to accompany your disaster plan
When disaster hits, wellness initiatives can make an enormous difference in how your employees cope. The initiatives below will help employees reduce their stress level, as well as help them maintain their work performance:

Work with management on expanding telecommuting
Depending on the disaster, it may be difficult to travel to the office or designated work area. When possible, work with management to allow more telecommuting in order to ease the pressure on employees.
Ensure work environments are safe
Work with the health and safety department to ensure the office or designated work area is safe for all employees.
Encourage sleep and good nutrition
During disasters very few people will be thinking about sleep and eating healthy, but this is the time they need it most. Conduct quick seminars or meetings with tips and facts on sleep and healthy diet topics.

Remind managers to give their employees plenty of breaks and allow for family emergencies
Remind your managers to provide their employees plenty of breaks. Many times during a disaster, employees take on additional duties, and this can result in high levels of stress. Breaks can help reduce this stress.

Create support groups to cope with disaster
The best way to get through a disaster is to get through it together. Create support groups that will help employees express their feelings.

The bottom line
Disaster planning is essential for every employer. HR professionals should work with other departments to ensure their disaster plan includes reducing stress and impact on employees. These initiatives should include telecommuting, safety, sleep and nutrition topics, and support groups. Reducing the impact of a disaster will allow employers to conduct business as usual, faster and healthier.

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