Auckland flooding: How to look after staff and your business in a time of crisis

The flooding in Tāmaki Makaurau over the weekend has left many families and businesses displaced and continues to disrupt the region. While we acknowledge the immense pressure the flooding puts on the region's waterways, and the effect climate change has had on the rainfall, we wanted to give you some information on how you can look after the wellbeing of your teams and ensure your business is in the best shape possible to see out the current and impending weather predictions.

Looking after your staff  

Behavorial scientist and founder of Thrive Lab, Renee Jaine, shared her tips for ensuring the well-being of your staff: 

  • Check-in directly and personally with everyone in your team. People will really appreciate a phone call or a text to see how they are doing, and how their families and friends have fared. While your immediate team members may be OK, they may be busy and distracted as they seek to help their broader community. It's useful for you to understand the context they're operating in. 
  • Do as much as you can to ease any work-related pressures for staff members who have been personally affected by the flooding.  
  • Appreciate that ongoing uncertainty may affect people's work performance. Uncertain situations are actually harder to adapt to than certain but negative outcomes - because uncertainty is attention-grabbing, and we tend to ruminate on all the possibilities. Your staff may be unsettled by the ongoing weather warnings, lack of certainty about insurance payouts, concerns that schools may stay closed, and so forth. Just knowing that uncertainty is unsettling can help you to lead your team with greater empathy. For more on this, you may like to look up Dan Gilbert's TED talk on the Surprising Science of Happiness 
  • Consider creating a dedicated space and time for people to share their experiences of the flooding. This will help affected team members to feel heard and understood, and it will strengthen the bonds between your team members. 
  • Try to help your team members to develop resilient modes of thinking. The father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, has found that people are less likely to bounce back from hardship if they fall prey to the 3 P's - personalisation, pervasiveness, and permanence. This sounds like, "it's my fault that bad things happen [personalisation], in every sphere of life [pervasiveness] and things are always going to be hard [permanence]". In contrast, people are more resilient if they can avoid these 3 Ps - with thinking that is impersonal, impermanent and specific. That sounds like: "the floods were a natural phenomenon [impersonal], and they've affected my property but not my relationships [specific], and I know we will recover in a few months [impermanent]". This may be a tricky topic to navigate with your team, because you don't want people to feel pressured to 'put on a happy face'. Instead, you could ask staff if they'd like any tools to help them mentally navigate this period of time, and if so, you could share this simple resource 
  • Some people in your team may feel 'survivor guilt' if they were not badly affected by the flooding. Others may feel powerless to help. You may like to identify a list of practical things that team members can do to help their colleagues or their wider community. You could even talk to your HR team about organising a team day, in which you provide practical support to NGOs like the Student Volunteer Army. Helping out in this manner has a range of benefits - you support your community, you strengthen bonds between team members, and you generate a stronger sense of agency within each individual team member, which will carry over into their everyday life. 

Our ACE president, Ceinwen McNeil shared some practical tips for leading teams during COVID which feels relevant to the recent flooding. Read more on her advice for caring and celebrating staff during times of crisis.  

Looking after your business has some great information around how your business can operate safely, insurance claims, finance and banking and buildings and landlord responsibilities as a result of the flooding.  

  • If you need to report any flood problems (with buildings) or request a building assessment, please call 0800 22 22 00.  
  • Take care of the health and safety of your team, yourself and your customers/clients. 
  • If the workplace isn’t safe, don’t require your staff to work there. Make sure it’s safe first. 
  • Staff communication and support are very important. Following a disaster, contact staff as soon as possible to advise them of the workplace situation and your expectations of them. Give them updates even if they are not required to be at work so that they know what is going on. Use texts and social media where possible to minimise overload of the telecommunications network. Remember staff may be under additional stress, provide them with support and help and show your concern. This could include access to an employee assistance programme for counselling, having a team debrief, daily blog or email. 
  • If public transport is unavailable or reduced, think about facilitating car pools among staff. Smaller employers could organise carpooling with other employers nearby. Consider any impact on staff getting to work on time and whether you can be flexible. 
  • Consider wider infrastructure issues (eg road closures, power outages or water restrictions) and the impact of these on staff getting to and from work and whether you can be flexible. 
  • In an extraordinary event, you may need to approach things differently. This may include temporarily changing your leave policy, letting employees work flexibly, or a adopting a flexible approach to staff make personal phone calls to check on family during the workday. 
  • Think about any negative impact on staff pay (eg processing of payroll) and try to minimise this. 
  • Act in good faith and be honest with staff about the situation. You can provide them with an expert report showing the workplace is safe, this will reassure them. If an employee has a concern about the workplace being unsafe, ask them the specifics of their concern (eg have they seen cracks) so that you can investigate. 

Find out more with

Auckland council has given us some good information on how to clean up after the flood.