The trauma of a disaster or emergency event can make it difficult for employees to return to work, and can make them less productive when they do. Effects can be multiplied if both the employee’s home and workplace are affected, or if the event takes place while they are at work. Providing an emotional support system can help employees manage the effects of the disaster and can ultimately help your business return to productivity sooner. It can reduce sick days and worker’s compensation.

Traumatic stress can affect our ability to think clearly, our relationships with others, and even our physical health. A person suffering from traumatic stress often won’t recognize the symptoms in themselves. Mood swings, irritability, insomnia, headaches, inability to concentrate, loss of appetite, even eating and sleeping too much, can be signs of traumatic stress.

If you contract with an employee assistance program, discuss what kind of support they can offer to employees after a disaster. Otherwise, find out what other resources are available in your community. In many areas Disaster Mental Health or Critical Incident Stress Management Teams are available to work with employers to help manage the stress and trauma of an extreme event. Talk to them in advance to find out what kind of services they can offer.

Be visible to your employees. Make sure they understand their role in the recovery of the business. Set achievable goals and recognize when they are met. Clearly communicate any changes in management structure or procedures, including whether the changes are permanent or, if temporary, how long they are expected to be in place.