Connection provides the opportunity to express frustrations, share challenges, consider strategies for problem solving, advocate in numbers, and share information, knowledge and resources. Sources of support, encouragement and recognition of commonality of experience are created. Connection enables the diffusion of stress through off-loading, sound-boarding, normalising what is occurring and gaining perspective.
Informal opportunities for people to connect, in addition to structured, task-focused opportunities are invaluable. Encourage those with a role in recovery to form personal support structures comprising of those they connect with who understand their realities. Multiple and varied types of connections are most helpful.
With those who have been there before:
- Practical first-hand experience of a role in disaster recovery was noted as important. Guidance, knowledge, perspective, and external support from those who’ve experienced the practical realities and understand the challenges involved was valued.
- This might be done by bringing in people with previous experience as speakers, as deliverers of training, as consultants, or through one-on-one connection face-to-face or via phone or skype calls. Connection might occur regularly or on-hand and sought as challenges arise, or events with local impact occur.
- The person who has been there before needn’t be an ‘expert’. Linking a front office shire council staff member with someone who performed a similar role in a previous event might be as, if not more, useful.
- Choose wisely as the title of recovery expert is oft claimed.
For Peter Miller and the team at the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network, their most useful support was the connection made with an equivalent survivors’ network from the Oklahoma City bombing who understood their challenges, offered support and suggested strategies based upon experience.
With peers – Create opportunities for connection with others in similar roles, facing similar challenges, both within and outside your organisation.
Team building - Efforts to bring teams together will pay dividends. Teams can be a source of invaluable support during times of challenge, or if stress is rife, the resulting interpersonal conflict adds to the strain. Prioritise regular team building time. Embrace the informal by conducting regular meetings in a novel, fun environment, encourage social functions, team competitions, weird hat day…
Individual one-on-one supports: Methods might include or be a combination of:
- ‘Buddies’ - Creating a buddy system so that everybody has someone, whether within or outside the team, to off-load with and someone who will check in with and look out for them.
- Mentors – from within or outside the organisation.
- Professional supervision - Whilst common in the areas of nursing, psychology or social work; those working in disaster recovery in other roles from front-desk administration to project lead, can also benefit from the professional supervision model.