Major incidents, such as the Boston Marathon bombing that took place in April, are not only traumatic for those directly involved but send shockwaves through networks of friends, family and whole communities.
Such events can make organisations, and commercial businesses in particular, question their degree of responsibility to the community.
All employees will be affected in some way by a major incident in their city or region. Some just want the familiarity and routine offered by work. Employment is a return to the ordinary and offers a reassuring stability.
Others may be unable to return to work because they are feeling disrupted and fragmented. Organisations need to offer a response that matches the expectations of their staff and reaches all employees.
This can prove challenging. The plethora of mental health difficulties that may be expected during and after a traumatic event include depression, exhaustion, tearfulness, withdrawal, lack of concentration, irritability and varying degrees of anxiety.
The role of the organisation is to create the right balance between taking responsibility to provide sufficient education, resources and support, and to use these resources, and encouraging employees to take responsibility for themselves. There are three overlapping areas.
1. The responsibilities of the employer
After a major incident, it is the employer's responsibility to reinstate working relationships, the work routine and the many unspoken boundaries of the workplace. It is important that managers are:
- active in their communication and support to staff;
- aware of the policies and procedures within the workplace for supporting staff;
- informed about the typical reactions that employees might demonstrate in the workplace; and
- present in order to retain a high profile during the first few days and weeks after an incident, which will provide a supportive, containing experience for the staff.
Often, we hear feedback from colleagues that their senior managers visited their workplace to pay tribute to their strength and loyalty, but didn't even take their coats off and remained in meetings all day. A contentious area of responsibility for organisations is their role and profile within the wider community. Should they open up their premises for injured people? Should they provide food, water or clothing? Should the organisation's first aiders offer the