As a leader, you are responsible for keeping your team together through thick and thin. When a natural disaster strikes and affects an employee’s home life, you play a role in helping them cope. That can range from statements of support to help with legal advice or granting extra time off.

But one thing you probably don’t want to do is require your employees to report to work when their homes are under mandatory evacuation, such as during the recent California wildfires. Don’t be the manager who says:

“I understand that your house is on fire and hope that you and your family are safe! … But yes please we are going to be open tomorrow so please come to work.”

This actual quote, circulating online, shows how some leaders can lose all perspective when it comes to work-life balance and responding appropriately in cases of natural disaster.

A Better Way to Help

For a better way to respond when your employees are living through a natural disaster, refer to this great BenefitsPRO resource. It provides five areas of advice, each of which is sensible and sensitive to employees’ needs when disaster strikes:

Property damage. Homeowners and renters have certain responsibilities when it comes to clean-up, disposal and how to engage with insurance companies. Knowing who needs to address what—the employee, a neighbor, a landlord or the insurance company—will help when making important and time-sensitive decisions.

Scams. Employees should watch out for scams in the wake of disaster. From refinancing schemes to home repair scams, requiring items like proof of licensing, a list of references and a contract will weed the scammers from the professionals.

Identity theft. Belongings, including documents with sensitive personal information on them, can get scattered or left behind. This exposes people to identity theft. Suggesting employees place a fraud alert with one of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) assists in monitoring potentially fraudulent activity in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

Contractors. When there’s damage, contractors will inevitably come into the picture. As with scams, doing a little homework on a contractor goes a long way to determining who’s the right person for the job. Red flags include door-to-door solicitations, estimates that are much lower than those of competitors and requiring immediate decisions.

Insurance. Filing claims for home, auto, medical and other types of insurance can be a messy process. Employees can prepare by knowing their policies and keeping a record of their interactions, phone or otherwise, with insurance companies.

A company-provided EAP benefit offers an additional layer of support. The EAP connects employees to counselors who can address issues related to the stress of dealing with a natural disaster; more robust EAPs will include assistance with work-life necessities or legal and financial guidance.  

As a leader, there’s a lot you can do to help your employees when they’re recovering from a natural disaster. Hopefully, you’ll base your strategy on these tips rather than on the mindset that requires employees to report to work when their house is on fire!