Poll Predicts Change in Workplace as a Result of Attacks

Sept. 28, 2001
A new poll determines how companies responded to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, and how they think the workplace\r\nwill change as a result in the future.

A new poll conducted jointly by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and eePulse determines how companies responded to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, and how they think the workplace will change as a result in the future.

The SHRM/eePulse poll, "HR Implications of the Attack on America," included the responses of 5,673 human resource professionals.

When asked what changes they predicted as a result of the tragedies, 66 percent of human resource professionals said that employees would be more caring toward one another.

Approximately half of respondents said organizations would put higher security provisions in place (56 percent) and 52 percent felt that employees would not consider travel as glamorous.

An additional 37 percent said that business travel would be curtailed and 35 percent said workers will be more wary of working in high-rise buildings.

"It''s clear that change will come as a result of the atrocities committed against America and the American workplace," said SHRM President and CEO Helen Drinan. "Since most companies felt they were not prepared to deal with the aftermath of the attacks, one of the most important changes that can come is that employers and employees work together to set in place a crisis management plan. As rare as such attacks are, catastrophic events can also come in the form of natural disasters, workplace violence, accidents or other critical emergency situations and companies should be prepared to respond."

As most Americans were taken off guard by the attacks, so, it appears were many companies. More than half of the survey respondents felt their companies (60 percent) were either not prepared at all to deal with the aftermath of the attacks or were only prepared to a small extent. Only 8 percent felt they were prepared to a great or very great extent.

"Although many respondents reported that employees felt helpless," Dr. Theresa Welbourne, CEO of eePulse, notes that, "reaching out to the workforce through communications, meetings, and direct actions ranging from donating money to relief funds (up to $5 million), organizing blood drives, and even holding garage sales, helped many employees cope."

With slightly more than half (54 percent) of respondents indicating their organization had a disaster plan in place, many organizations responded off the cuff to helping employees cope.

The majority (83 percent) allowed employees to watch TV or listen to the radio at work, 51 percent allowed employees time off if they needed it, 50 percent collected money and/or supplies to be sent for aid and 49 percent offered Employee Assistance Program services and encouraged its use.

Comments written in by poll respondents highlighted the generosity and sharing that is occurring in corporate America in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

HR professionals shared specific activities their organization and its employees had undertaken such as donating millions of dollars to relief agencies, creating a scrapbook in which employees could make contributions of stories and photos, and hospital staff sending hundreds of hand-written notes of support to their colleagues at hospitals in affected areas.

One organization donated some of its own office space to a competitor who had been located in the World Trade Center.

by Virginia Foran

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