How to Prepare for a Workplace Tragedy
Important steps to take to be prepared before disaster strikes
The workplace is not immune to the impact of tragedies. Workplace shootings and natural disasters, for example, get extensive news coverage and have a tremendous impact on the psychological wellness of our society. These, as well as smaller events and personal tragedies, befall workers every day, impacting both the physical wellbeing and the health of your team as well as the health of your business.
53 percent of American workers report experiencing a traumatic event while at work – these range from heart attacks in the office, fires, workplace injuries, and more. However, only 46 percent of employers are prepared to cope with issues like these, according to a 2016 survey. While protecting against all contingencies is not possible, doing your best to plan for as many of them as possible is critical. Nearly two-thirds of employees said support from their company after a traumatic event would be a valuable benefit.
So, what can your organization do to be prepared to cope with traumatic events your employees may face?
- Develop a plan. One of the most important things businesses can do to minimize disruptions and harm from trauma or emergencies is to make a plan before anything happens. Putting together a comprehensive crisis response plan as well as a core task force to execute on that plan, will help you both better understand and evaluate your risks as well as more effectively respond when a crisis occurs.
- Educate your staff. Educating your staff about your crisis response plan will allow everyone in the organization to effectively respond to events as they happen. One idea is to incorporate the crisis response plan (or a portion of it) into your onboarding procedures to help new hires understand the plan and resources available. Strayboots scavenger hunts often incorporate elements of safety plans and other critical information employees should remember (such as the location of fire escapes and safety equipment, and who is responsible for providing help during a crisis). Teaching and reinforcing this information through scavenger hunts and other activities can make the information easier for employees to remember. Also, don’t forget to reeducate and inform everyone, not just your new hires, of any changes in plans or critical safety information.
- Have clear lines of communication. Lack of communication or confusion vis-à-vis the channels for communication can make a bad problem worse. Make sure you minimize this stressor by establishing clear lines of communication between staff and management. Let your employees know they can use these channels anytime they need them. Establishing a trusted system of communication is critical to ensure it is utilized when it’s most needed.
- After a crisis or trauma has passed, let people know how to help. Everyone loves to come together and help out those in a time of crisis. It may be as simple as a casserole delivered to the family after the death of a close relative or it could be organizing a food drive for the victims of a recent hurricane. Whichever way you come up with to help out, make sure everyone is aware and knows how they can be involved and help out if they’re up to it.
- Understand how your employees react to trauma. Understanding that everyone responds to, and copes with, traumatic events differently. Have staff members available to assist employees who have been through an event and provide employees with the necessary support, time off, and other resources that they might need. Many external organizations provide resources and guidance.
Planning for the worst is never fun but given the number and range of potential incidents – from cyber-attacks to workplace injuries – planning is critically important. Ensuring that your teams know everything they need to know before a crisis hits, ensuring they are trained and prepared, will help to minimize negative outcomes.