Skip to content

Disaster recovery plan: 5 tips to prepare for a crisis


When a crisis hits, whether it’s a natural disaster or workplace violence, being proactive in your disaster recovery planning is vital.

Having a strategy in place before the unexpected happens will enable you to respond with a well-thought-out plan of action and get your people and your company back to business as soon as possible.

Here are five keys to building a solid business disaster recovery plan.

People first

When a disaster hits, your first concern may be how to keep your business running as normal as possible.

What projects might suffer? How are you going to keep the workflow moving? How much money might be at stake while you’re trying to get back up to speed?

Although it makes perfect sense to be worried about these things, the truth is your top priority needs to be how your employees have fared and what they need.

The business can wait. So, what should you do first when putting together your disaster recover plan?

  • Have your employees’ contact information readily available and updated.
  • Contact them as soon as possible, and find out if they’re safe and accounted for.
  • Let them know that the company cares about them, and be willing to allow for special accommodations, such as remote work and flexible hours.
  • Check in with them on a regular basis, and stay up to date with their individual situation.
  • Keep them informed of next steps.
  • Coordinate volunteer efforts.
  • Provide access to an employee assistance program to provide support and guidance.
  • Encourage your managers to set up meetings so their teams can talk to each other about what happened.
  • Remember that everyone is an individual and will have unique situations and needs – this is not a time to use a blanket solution. It doesn’t work in a disaster. Be flexible.

Putting your employees’ well-being at the top of the list in your disaster recovery planning will help them recover quicker and be more productive when they return to work.

Business second

Now that you’ve taken stock of your people, it’s time to look at how your business has been affected and what critical business functions need to be addressed to keep your company “machine” running.

Your established disaster recovery plan will ensure that you’re prepared in advance and ready to go. Here are some things to consider:

  • Know the areas of your business that will need to be top priority, and have a strategy to keep them going. For instance, have a backup plan on how you will process your payroll and accounts.
  • Be sure that your management team has a clear understanding of the business-critical functions within their group and how they will be managed.
  • Be clear on what can wait. Some things will have to be put on the back burner.
  • Plan on how you will handle paid time off. Don’t make those decisions in the middle of a crisis.
  • Contact your customers and let them know your status.

Leadership know-how

As a leader, it’s important that you have an understanding of your workforce and who you can count on during a crisis. Part of your business disaster recovery planning is assessing the people on your team and having a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

People are individuals and have different levels of capabilities when it comes to a crisis.  Considering this as you put together your disaster recovery plan is paramount to making it a success.

Although you can’t always predict how people will respond in a particular situation, you can have insight into the different personality types that make up your company and talk to them about where they might fit during disaster recovery. It is helpful to have emergency roles lined up in advance.

Some of these roles could include a person in charge of contacting employees, writing emergency updates and posting information on social media during the aftermath to keep people informed. Others could be more business-specific, such as who can take on more responsibilities and extra job functions if others are not able.

A few points to think about:

  • Some people are more apt to respond with a take-charge attitude when it comes to dealing with a crisis, while others won’t.
  • How a person reacts during a disaster is neither good nor bad. It just is and should not have an impact on how they are treated or perceived in relation to their value as an employee.
  • Some people will be over-doers and will need help from you in relinquishing their extra job duties and taking a break to avoid burnout.

Emergency preparedness

A solid disaster recovery plan requires thinking ahead and preparing as many resources as possible to help you when a crisis hits. The best place to keep this information is in your employee handbook so that it can be accessed easily.

Things to include:

  • Current employee emergency contact info
  • Workplace safety protocols
  • Established emergency notification system
  • Evacuation routes
  • Post-evacuation protocols
  • Emergency planning team and contact info
  • American Red Cross phone numbers and locations
  • Shelter locations

Balance is vital

Planning for disaster recovery means understanding the importance of taking  care of your people while, at the same time, keeping your business operating as smoothly as possibly during and after a crisis.

This is done by making sure you have a balanced culture where people feel valued and are invested in your company. This is never more evident than in the midst of a crisis.

When you have a strong company culture, you will get through the hard times, as well as the good, with a top-performing workforce devoted to your company’s success.

Here’s what you can do as a leader to foster a good company culture:

  • Set clear and specific expectations – so they don’t get lost along the way.
  • Explain the big-picture connection to everyone – your employees want to know how their work contributes to the greater good of your business.
  • Get your leadership team on the same page – it’s essential that your leaders are focused on the same destination.
  • Let your employees do their own work – micromanaging them or their projects diminishes their feeling of value and responsibility.
  • Maintain open, honest communication – talk, listen and share ideas.
  • Take time to recognize success and learn from failures.

Being able to navigate your employees and your business through a disaster can be a daunting journey with wide-ranging effects. Knowing what to do before a crisis strikes will give you the tools to recover as quickly and efficiently as possible.

For more insight on leadership best practices that can help your business move forward in any climate, download The Insperity guide to leadership and management.