What about the employee? The Missing Link Business Continuity Management
By Suzanne Anderson, MSW, Counselor & Special Projects Coordinator, SACAC
Disaster after disaster has rocked the region in the past several years—the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Yogyakarta earthquake, the cyclone in Myanmar and the earthquake in Sichuan province. All the while we live and work in protected Singapore believing that it is not vulnerable to any natural disasters.
However, in September of this year the Straits Times reported that two separate studies are underway considering Singapore’s vulnerability to earthquakes. In considering the impact of a large scale disaster such as an earthquake on businesses in the region, Nathaniel Forbes of Forbes Calamity Prevention in Singapore, wisely encourages businesses to consider the intersection or linkages of public safety emergency services and business continuity management plans. These linkages need to be set before a disaster and practiced, or chaos will result at the time of the disaster.
Forbes further highlights the challenge of convincing businesses that companies should consider activities which generally have been viewed within the jurisdiction of government-based emergency services. The reality is that in a large scale disaster the public sector emergency services will be overwhelmed and businesses will need to step in the gap to ensure their own most effective continuity of service.
This means companies will benefit from looking at how to help their employees continue to function after a disaster. That planning needs to start before a disaster happens. It starts in the office. The reality is that family members are not going to start by calling Singapore Civil Defense to find their loved ones when a disaster happens. Once they can’t reach a loved on their hand phone they are going to call their loved one’s employer. If they can’t get the information they need by phone, they are going to show up at the employer’s offices.
Gerald Lewis, who focuses on the “people-recovery” aspect of business continuity management, reminds businesses “that in relation to many security, IT and other continuity options, the human factor services are relatively inexpensive, yet may be a significant benefit to a work organizations greatest asset…its personnel…not to mention its bottom line.” While businesses are investing in backing up their security, IT and operational resources, it is a comparatively small step to consider and plan for the support needed by employees after a crisis.
Dr Victor Welzant of the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation paints a picture of the effects trauma can have on employees in the workplace:
Loss of productivity
Protracted medical concerns
Conflicts between employees, and employees and employers
Reduced quality of services provided
Johns Hopkins recommends a continuum of care from developing resistance, supporting resilience and aiding recovery that follows a basic pattern of pre-crisis planning, crisis response and post-crisis support.
Maintaining up-to-date personnel records
Stress management training/practice
Establishing employee meeting places if electronic communication is down
Establishing a communication plan
Training peer support counselors
Encouraging employees to establish family crisis plans
Identifying those in need of psychological support
Fielding enquiries from loved ones about the status of employees
Providing psychological first aid/companioning/social support
Making notifications to next of kin of employee status
Accurate and timely information
Individual, group and family counseling
Supplying information on coping through newsletters, e-mails and bulletin boards
Remembering those affected by the disaster (dead and injured)
Memorials/rituals of closure
Return to work policies
Intertwined with each of these areas of service is the need for strong, credible corporate leadership and a sense of group identification and identification with the common purpose, goals and ideals of the business.
The goal of employee support is to ensure that a work force is available and effective to implement the other aspects of a business continuity management (BCM) plan, because in reality without people in place to implement it, a BCM plan exists on paper only. Several businesses in Singapore in the medical, financial and hospitality industries have already under taken the initial steps to train staff as peer supporters and crisis line staff.
A study by Boscarino et. Al. (2005) in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks states that work-based brief crisis interventions of two to three sessions were associated with reduced risk over two years for:
The next link in a complete business plan of resilience is to address the needs of employees and their loved.