Supporting Employee Wellbeing Following a Natural Disaster
Natural disasters displaced nearly 3.4 million people in 2022, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Natural disasters and even public health emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic, can have an enormous impact on working Americans.
Here are a few ways you can support employees following a natural disaster.
- Communicate Effectively With Your Employees.
It’s critical to have a disaster plan in place before an emergency occurs and to ensure that your protocol is easily accessible to staff. During a disaster, use internal employee channels, such as email or your company’s intranet to stay in touch with staff. You can also use this strategy to share general information as the situation progresses, like road closures, weather updates or safe spaces.
Following the event, your team should also receive information about next steps. If you’re in a position to provide support for those affected, be sure to communicate how they can receive aid.
- Connect Your Team With the Right Outside Help.
After a disaster occurs, survivors may also require additional help outside of the standard shelter, food and supplies. Employees displaced from their homes may deal with unlawful foreclosures, evictions and contractor scams. Handling property issues may also be devastating for those who have lost or damaged items in the wake of a disaster. Insurance can be useful, but without proper legal assistance, the claims process can be equally time-consuming and frustrating.
Connecting your team with legal professionals can make their transition period easier. Putting together a legal plan for your employees before a disaster strikes is the best way to combat unforeseen issues and help them get on the right track.
- Create a Team for Mutual Aid.
All employees will be affected by a disaster in different ways, and require different levels of help after the event. By coordinating volunteer efforts, you can create a safe space for people to assist victims all across the spectrum.
You may also consider setting up a shelter for staff that is displaced by the disaster. That can mean using a local facility as a daycare, pet care center or even charging station where people can congregate and consider the next steps. Food and water may also be scarce in the wake of a natural disaster, so setting up a shelter may become even more necessary.
- Reflect and Regroup.
The loss of personal items, homes or even close relationships takes a toll on everyone in different ways. It’s common for employees recovering from a disaster to experience heightened anxiety and increased levels of burnout.
Create a dialogue with members of your team to see how they are affected by the event. Encourage staff to make use of any mental health services your company may offer and understand that the effects of the disaster may linger, even after the event has ended. According to a survey by the Harris Poll, almost 70% of workers say mental health services offered by employers are beneficial.
Based on your company’s experience with the natural disaster, reflect on what happened and how you could have improved your response. Ask your staff for feedback, especially if they don’t feel supported. Continue to integrate their feedback into your strategy.
- Don’t Overlook the Financial Implications.
Natural disasters can cause billions of dollars in damages for families across the country. According to an analysis by the JP Morgan Chase Institute, during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, home expenses rose 15 to 37 percent and inflows to checking accounts dropped 20 percent.
Your workforce needs financial education to serve as a foundation through any disaster. Without it, they may be left vulnerable to unexpected expenses, increased consumer debt and other financial pitfalls. Proper planning can prevent unnecessary challenges and allow them to come out the other side financially unscathed.
For example, emergency funds are one of the biggest problem areas for Americans. In 2023, only about 30% of people have some emergency savings, but not enough to cover three months of expenses, according to Bankrate. Financial wellness programs offer assistance with emergency funds no matter the financial situation, by providing saving strategies and educational information.
How U.S. Legal Services Can Help
U.S. Legal Services’ Family Defender™ plan can help your employees afford critical legal services in the wake of a disaster. Plan members can connect with qualified attorneys in their local area to find guidance for a variety of legal issues including insurance claims, real estate issues, landlord and tenant issues, identity theft protection, financial wellness and much more.
Lawyers in our network are carefully vetted before becoming members — and then vetted annually to ensure that they continue to meet our stringent requirements.
U.S. Legal Services has also partnered with Best Money Moves, an award-winning financial wellness platform. Best Money Moves works with our legal plans to help employees make smarter decisions about their money. This confidential platform provides unbiased guidance for life’s financial milestones, including access to certified financial crisis managers for direct help during financial emergencies.
To learn more about how group legal insurance benefits can help your team, contact us online or call 1.800.356.LAWS for a quote.