by Michael Hempseed
The effects of the quakes on your staff: What happens when we can’t work?
The effects of Monday’s 7.8 earthquake have rippled out across New Zealand’s business community. For some businesses, it has been work as usual, while others have experienced major disruptions. Many companies might be out of action for weeks or even months.
In the western world, so much of our identity is tied to what we do as a job. When you introduce yourself to a new person, one of the first things you ask is “What do you do?”. So when our working lives are disrupted or threatened, it can have a significant impact on our self-worth, and add a great deal of stress during an already challenging time.
On November 17, the Government announced a support package for businesses in Kaikoura and surrounding areas directly affected by the quake. There are Ministry of Social Development (MSD) benefits that may be available in other areas. Purely addressing monetary needs does not, of course, address all the issues for businesses at a time like this.
Things to consider as an employer if your business is facing significant disruption:
Honesty is key
If you are unable to pay your staff wages, you need to be honest. Give them as much notice as possible and keep them informed as things progress. Most staff will understand your position as long as you keep the lines of communication open.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate
If you have bills coming in and no/low cash flow, talk to your creditors and try to negotiate a payment plan. Some bigger businesses will have the resources to help smaller companies, which may free up funds to pay staff.
Earning an income is only part of why our job is so important to us – it also gives us a sense of purpose. Some people may find themselves in the position where they are unable to return to their place of work but are still being paid. For some, this will give time for a much-needed break, while for others, sitting around without work, can lead to worry and negative thoughts. If you or your staff are in this situation, consider taking up volunteer work. Research has shown that volunteering can greatly improve your mental wellbeing. This could be anything from helping a neighbour to working with a charity - every little bit helps.
Empower yourself and your employees to innovate
In situations such as this, being able to come up with innovative solutions to business problems is important. Perhaps your building has been damaged, leaving you unsure when your staff might be able to return to work? You could loan some of your staff to another business as a temporary solution. Many businesses take on extra staff over the summer, so your staff could continue to be paid while you have time to sort out the bigger picture.
Consider starting a side-line business to generate some cash flow. Take stock of what resources you still have available and how these could be used in other ways. For example, if you are a hotel or motel owner with empty rooms, you might be able to rent out the space for storage to those who have lost buildings or office space. While these are temporary measures, they may help your business to get through a difficult time.