5 Tips to Navigate Sandy’s Stress and Sensory Overload at Work

FLKR: The Birkes

Sandy made big waves. The deadly storm is also likely to churn the oceans of the workplace for days, perhaps weeks to come. This type of breaking news slams into our work-life merge in “real time,” because of the ease and access to technology. Even if you don’t live or work in the northeast, in our global workplace, you’re bound to know others who are impacted. So this time calls for an extra special sensitivity.

Large scale news events offer up a hefty serving of external stimulation, but they can also have emotional legs depending on the intensity of the incident, the access to information and ones personal orientation to the event.

For example, if you’re job is associated with the financial markets, closing the doors of the New York Stock Exchange for Sandy probably elicited a feeling of angst. This storm is historic on so many levels.

Just think about what happened after the earthquake in Japan a few years back. The scenes of destruction played out, over and over on television and the internet. It was heartbreaking and heading to work offered no escape, as there was continuous “real time” access to the unfolding drama.  I wrote about that in my Forbes post, When Global Chaos Fuels Workplace Anxiety.

Managing ones intake of information under such circumstances is directly related to what I call the new APR in the workplace: the attention, productivity and resilience of our talent. And when such dramatic events such as Hurricane Sandy roll through, it’s a knock to the APR of the workforce.

Here are five tips to navigate the stress of Sandy at work:

  1. Acknowledge the event: Ignoring such a traumatic event only keeps feelings bottled up.  Management can simply address the event in a memo or conversation at work. This brings immediate attention to the event, and that from that quick acknowledgement emerges a human level of concern.
  2. It’s ok to talk about it: There will be consistent water cooler discussions in the wake of such disasters, it’s just human nature. It’s helpful for management to make it ok to discuss the event. Maybe even a quick staff meetings to address employee concerns. Does it impact the way business is done in the workplace? If so, what is expected of employees under the circumstances?
  3. Be sensitive to the feelings of co- workers: If a worker is personally affected by the tragedy, what kind of emotional or other support can management or colleagues offer? This is a good time to communicate the specifics of employee assistance programs that are available to workers.
  4. Limit your info-intake: Checking on the latest new developments is a time waster. In real time, the story changes in a flash. If your workplace decisions, or immediate personal life aren’t impacted by having that  information, limit your intake. As disasters like Sandy unfold, there will be a general curiosity. Set guidelines for how often you’re going to check the web, listen to the radio or turn on the TV.
  5. Take time to digest, rest and build resilience: When disaster first strikes there could be an immediate plummet in the attention of workers. Allow for some moments of contemplative or downtime so everyone can process the event. It’s not about dwelling, but just acknowledging the bigger picture and its impact on the workplace and talent. After that, engaging in some sort of resilience building activity changes the energy of the situation. Meditation, exercise or just listening to some calming music can flip the energy to a more grounded view and away from drama.

What guidance can you share for those at work, when faced with such emotional chaos from external sources? Please share your thoughts. And also join me on twitter: @JudyMartin8

  • Chip Kohrman

    Great advice. Sandy has put a lot of people in a tough situation. Can I also suggest that easing back into the commute could help relieve a lot of stress? If you can telework a few more days, it will keep the road safer and the mind a little clearer as well. Wishing everyone a fast recovery from the storm.

    • http://twitter.com/judymartin8 Judy Martin

      Hi Chip,
      Flexwork is a great idea. Problem is that I’m finding that most people here don’t have electric and it’s very difficult. We’re losing lots of productive time. As I work in a newsroom, it actually feels better to be here with working electric -toilets and water.. I learned one thing for sure – the first thing I’m going to buy after Sandy is a new battery backup for my iphone and computer!!!