Magazine article Risk Management

The Key Role of EAPs after a Crisis

Magazine article Risk Management

The Key Role of EAPs after a Crisis

Article excerpt

In the aftermath of Katrina, managers of companies large and small found themselves torn between the need to restart business and limit financial damages, and the need to show consideration for employees left homeless or unable to return to work. These circumstances underscored the core competencies of an employee assistance program (EAP)--crisis services, employee support and an independent phone system--to get businesses back on their feet.

Traditionally, EAPs have been viewed as a resource for employee problems such as alcoholism, depression or marital conflict. Today's full-service EAPs, however, have an expanded role that includes a host of organizational services such as employee communication during crises, logistical help, crisis counseling and policy consultation around disaster management and business continuity.

During Hurricane Katrina, many EAPs served as a stop-gap in corporate communications, allowing employees to contact each other, coordinate operations and get back to work faster. Because an EAP's network resources are usually self-managed, calling the EAP in a time of need shifts the burden away from the organization. Additionally, the business model of most EAP providers--with national headquarters, multiple call centers throughout the United States and backup systems--ensures the availability of people and resources that will not be affected by a localized disaster.

Many EAP hotlines, with call centers located beyond the Gulf States, buttressed employer emergency protocols throughout the Katrina ordeal. Organizations who had given employees instructions on how to contact the EAP in an emergency were rewarded with a shorter interruption time for communications and faster recovery. As an added benefit, employees who called their EAP were immediately connected with a live person trained in providing counseling and advice during stressful or traumatic situations.

Also during Katrina, many EAPs assisted with crucial tasks such as finding food, shelter and assistance for employees. EAPs typically include work-life services, which consist of researchers that assist employees primarily with child/elder care needs, concierge-type services and legal/financial questions. After the storm hit, these researchers helped with everything from finding FEMA aid and cleanup services to arranging for daycare and addressing insurance claim issues. …

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