Crisis plans should consider emotional and psychological elements

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I know when I’ve supported employees in light of traumatic events, in the first instance it is about establishing the safety of employees and then ensuring this is backed up with promotion and ...


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Giving the right support to staff exposed to a traumatic event such as Manchester's terrorist attack is critical

Crisis management and business continuity plans should consider the emotional and psychological impact of distress, rather than just practical elements, according to a report from employee assistance programme LifeWorks.

It warns that many businesses concentrate on the physical elements of a crisis such as electrical power, essential services and IT backup arrangements, often overlooking steps to support the psychological and emotional needs of staff exposed to trauma and distress.

Colin Grange, clinical director of LifeWorks, said that giving the right support to employees who have been exposed to a traumatic event is critical in reducing long-term emotional damage.

“Although the majority of people will return to normal after a period of recovery, for some there may be an impairment in their capacity to cope with everyday life and some may even develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” he said.

His words come in the wake of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) updating the UK’s threat status to ‘critical’ following the terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester on 22 May. NaCTSO has called for businesses to “reassure their staff to ensure they are alert, but not alarmed". The new threat level implies that another attack could be imminent.

Grange suggested firms should undertake a risk assessment of critical incidents that may occur in the future and how these will be handled internally, with a focus on how managers will guide and support workers.

He highlighted the importance of HR in the planning and implementation of a crisis plan. “As with all crisis management, the better prepared HR departments are in advance of a crisis event the better the psychological and emotional outcome for employees,” he said.

“Good support after a traumatic event benefits the individual employee by preventing normal emotional reactions becoming more serious and distressing. Equally, the employer benefits by reducing the need for staff to take time off work, or being less productive and effective at work.”

Comments

I know when I’ve supported employees in light of traumatic events, in the first instance it is about establishing the safety of employees and then ensuring this is backed up with promotion and sustained awareness of employee support services, particularly the services of an Employee Assistance Programme. The ability for employees to have timely access to professional specialist support in this way can really make a difference to how well they are able to respond to events. At an individual level, for employees who may have been directly affected by an incident, I believe support is best approached in conjunction with the employee, establishing agreed frequency of contact, and supporting activities such as discussing return to work plans if appropriate. Individuals respond differently to the same circumstances so being pragmatic, flexible and ensuring the employee is aware support remains in place for the long term is really important.


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Although not directly affected by the terror attack I was unable to function at usual capacity on Tuesday and following on I have noticed I'm distracted and not as productive as I would normally be. I work only in a voluntary capacity but even so the bottom line is that this attack has impacted on my ability to sustain normal levels of productivity. Though I do not need support I fully agree that others in the workplace will without a doubt need support. Companies could direct their employees towards voluntary organizations providing 24/7 telephone support to those in need.


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