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Supporting Employees Impacted by a Natural Disaster or Other Crisis

Everyone handles stress and grief in different ways.  It is important not to assume how an employee will manage reactions to an event of this nature.  This is a time where a touch of human kindness goes a long way.  Below are some tips for managers:


Employees who are waiting to hear about their family/significant other:

  • Managers should determine the # of employees impacted by a natural disaster or other crisis.
  • Managers should consider touching base with each employee to find out the status of the situation, what they need at this time (stay at work/go home), how co-workers can support them. 
  • If there are impacted workers in your area, it might be good to assign a “buddy” to be with them, particularly if they might receive news at work.  Ask the employee. 

If an employee receives news of the loss of family/significant other at work:

  • Take the employee to a quiet room where he or she can have some privacy.  Acknowledge his or her feelings. Given the magnitude of this event, it might be good to plan ahead and have a room set aside just for this type of situation. 
  • Ask the employee who in the family or support system is available to them at this time.  Assist if the employee needs help to access those individuals.   
  • If there is a chaplain, priest or pastor at the site, ask the employee if he or she would like him to be contacted. 
  • Ask if he or she wants you to share any information with co-workers.  If so, what information or details would he or she like them to know?  
  • Some employees may want to know the policy on absences due to death of a family member/significant other.  Be prepared to provide this information.  
  • The employee might need assistance with childcare or picking children up from school.  
  • Ask the employee what supports are available (family, neighbors, church, and other community.) 
  • In the days that follow, contact the employee to find out how co-workers can offer support.  Are there specific things that co-workers can do such as grocery shopping, childcare, or bring meals?  Where can cards be sent or what other offerings are appropriate (flowers, donations, etc). How (and when) will the deceased be memorialized – this varies with different cultures/religions.  
  • Prior to returning to work, ask if the employee will want to speak with co-workers about the experience or if he or she would prefer to concentrate on work. 
  • In most cases, grief is a natural process and does not require assistance from a mental health or medical professional.  However the employee should be provided with the EAP # or the local emergency room in the event that further services are needed. 

This article is made to help guide managers when a crisis impacts the work place.  This is not meant to replace the consultation that EAP is able to provide. Do not hesitate to call the EAP.


For more information or to discuss employee or workplace concerns please contact Partners Employee Assistance Program at 1-866-724-4EAP.

In case of emergency, please call 911 or your local hospital emergency service.

This content was last modified on: 02/12/2014

Partners EAP is not a service for the general public.

In case of emergency, please call 911 or your local hospital emergency service.

Call Us: 1-866-724-4EAP