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Feeling shaky after the quakes?

It’s normal to feel a bit off-balance after a natural disaster, as many found after the quakes in early November. Here are ways to calm workplace nerves and make sure your emergency plans are ship-shape.

To be healthy and happy at work and beyond, people need to feel safe — and this can be tricky when the earth moves without warning.

Adrenaline levels tend to rise after a quake, making people feel anxious and jumpy. This is normal. And if aftershocks continue, anxiety levels can stay high. Ways to reduce anxiety include:

  • getting plenty of sleep
  • limiting your exposure to quake news — being up to date with every last aftershock will make you more, not less, anxious
  • knowing what’s normal, including aftershocks, being startled by aftershocks, and feeling more stressed or grumpy than usual
  • sticking with your normal routine as much as possible, eg working hours, hobbies, meal times.

Managing stress in an emergency (external link) — Ministry of Health

Working together to keep everyone healthy at work will also help your business. Research from Christchurch shows the most important factor in a business surviving a disaster is the quality of the relationships with staff, customers and suppliers.

Support available to individuals and businesses following 14 November earthquakes (external link) — Work and Income

Staffed or Stuffed: Creating Resilience Through Your People (external link) — Resilient Organisations booklet

Keep in touch

If you have staff or share a workplace with others, make sure you have everyone’s contact details, and they have yours.

Talk about how to stay in touch if another disaster strikes. Phone networks can get overloaded and power may be cut after a major disaster, so avoid making calls or relying on email.

Communicate by text message after a major event — even though texts may take a while to arrive.

Communicate by text message after a major event — even though texts may take a while to arrive.

Make sure everyone knows the safest place to be in an emergency, whether it’s under a desk, workbench or dropping to the ground. Talk about safety plans, including where and when to evacuate once the immediate danger has passed.

Put up a poster of what to do in an earthquake where everyone can see it, eg in the staff kitchen or on toilet doors. A poster with big illustrations is a good idea.

Drop, cover, hold poster (external link) [PDF, 67K] — Get Ready Get Thru

Check emergency supplies at work. Do you have torches, water and a first aid kit? Encourage your people to each have a go-bag with non-perishable food, warm clothes and sturdy shoes.

Not only is all this a great way to reassure your staff (and yourself), health and safety law says all businesses must be prepared for emergencies. 

Plan for what you’ll still have to do if your business has to close temporarily or for good.

Plan for what you’ll still have to do if your business has to close temporarily or for good.

Disaster recovery plans

The recent quakes are a good reminder to think about ways to help your business survive difficult times. Create or refine a business continuity plan (BCP). Think about:

  • activities and procedures that need to happen
  • each person’s role in getting the business back on its feet
  • contact details for staff, emergency services, clients, suppliers and your insurance company
  • a timeline and checklist of recovery processes.

The government’s Get Ready Get Thru website is packed with tips on how to get your business prepared, including downloadable workplace emergency plans.

Get your business ready (external link) — Get Ready Get Thru

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