Office

6 Things to Do When Disaster Strikes the Office

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OfficeWatching all of the coverage of Hurricane Sandy and the devastation that the storm has wrought as the images continue to come in as everyone begins to dig out begs a question.

Beyond personal safety, property repairs, replacement purchases, and insurance forms, what happens to people whose employers suffered a catastrophe at the office – the workplace is destroyed, heavily damaged, or otherwise inoperable?

What do you do if your office is destroyed/damaged by a catastrophe or large-scale disaster?

Each situation is completely different, and lot of how your company rebounds from a disaster truly rests on the company leaders’ previous business continuity plans.

Here are some suggestions to develop a personal action plan to deal with a sudden loss of an employer or job due to a natural or man-made catastrophe:

1. Talk to the Bosses

Either try to make contact with them, or wait for them to reach you, depending on the scale of the disaster… sometimes phone contact simply isn’t possible, so you may have to resort to other methods including e-mail and even in-person visits to the office location, which is only advisable when conditions are safe enough to permit it. The company leaders’ biggest concerns are to resume normal operations as quickly as possible, and they need the help of employees to make it happen.

However, if the physical damage is so great that the office is simply not in existence anymore, the leaders need to make specific decisions about how to proceed. Many companies have invested in business interruption insurance which can help cover expenses for rebuilding/repair including employee compensation. So take your cue from the boss and find out what their plan is to proceed.

2. Assess the Damage

The more you can do to provide a snapshot of how your particular area of work is affected, the better clarity your boss will have of how what can be restored quickly and what needs investment of company resources for replacement or repair. This can include processes, deadlines, equipment, files, and overall operations. Whenever possible, forward a report to your supervisor so they can take your area into consideration during the recovery process.

3. Offer to Help

A company calling for “All hands on deck” can help provide more manpower on the ground to restore normal business operations. It could mean clean-up, extra hours of work, and tasks that eclipse your normal scope of work, but being part of the restoration team also earn you some bonus points while giving you a first-hand birds-eye view of how quickly the company can get back up and running.

4. Offer to Work Virtually

So many companies have files on cloud servers that it is fairly easy for a large number of employees to work off-site. If this is possible, employers appreciate it when staff immediately jump in to resume normal operations despite being offsite – this literally can be how the company’s “heartbeat” is kept going. If you can work virtually, it’s also a good idea to keep good documentation of your hours and where you are spending time in case employers need this information.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask About the Company Status

The confluence of dealing with a disaster, trying to assess operations, and developing a roadmap for business continuity can mean a lot of immediate and urgent things are competing for your boss’ attention, but you should make sure that you find out where your job stands within a few days of a disaster. Knowing if the business is closed for good, temporarily shuttered, or operating on limited basis is important for your own planning. If company officials aren’t forthright shortly after conducting an operational triage, then you need to be direct with them so you have a better understanding of what you need to do for your own financial survival.

6. Set Up Your Own Emergency Career Survival Plan

Financial planners are constantly preaching about having a savings buffer of at least 6 months’ salary in the bank. This can provide important “breathing” spaces while your boss assesses what is next for the company… but at a certain point, you need to know when to move on if there is no hope for continued employment based on the reality of the situation. But before you leave the business, make sure that you completely understand your eligibility for any insurance, workers’ comp, or state benefits for displaced workers.

It’s a scary time when all of a sudden, your employment jeopardy as a result of unforeseen circumstances like fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, or floods. The best thing you can do is be as prepared as possible, be willing to step up, but also keep an eye on what your “line in the sand” is to know when it is time to move on.

Have you ever suffered an office disaster? What steps did you take to overcome it? Love to hear your ideas/get your feedback.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dawn Rasmussen

Dawn Rasmussen is president of Portland, Oregon-based Pathfinder Writing and Career Services, which provides resume, cover letter, and job searching assistance.

2 comments

  1. This is a great and really timely post. No one expects a disaster like Hurricane Sandy to come through, but it’s good to know what your company would do in the event of a natural disaster. Working virtually is a great tip, especially if the physical office location has taken a hit. For instance if you’re hiring someone, schedule their interview through online video instead of in person. You can never be 100 percent prepared for disaster, but you can work out an emergency plan with your coworkers and employers to be as ready as possible.

  2. This is an outstanding article. As someone who has worked my entire career to help people and businesses prepare for emergency, disaster, and crisis events, I thank you for addressing this important topic. So many people think that a disaster will not impact their business or their ability to do business and the last thing people need during a crisis is to lose their source of income.

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