Employers whose staff are struggling to cope following Monday's earthquake are being given advice on how to best support their employees.

"The vast majority of people will cope well with the recent earthquakes," said Employee Solution Services managing director Michael Hempseed.

"For employers, it is important to believe that those who are not coping well are doing the best they can. No-one chooses to be traumatised."

It was important to remember a lack of information was "really distressing" for staff, Hempseed said.

"You should keep your staff informed with regular updates. Even if you say, 'I don't know any more yet,' at least you are saying something."

Hempseed also warned employers to be aware of tired staff members.

"There are many people who have not had much sleep over the past few nights. Many will be more agitated and likely to make more mistakes," he said.

"When people are worried or upset they cannot take in complex information, so keep it simple.

For those in Christchurch it was also important not to assume everyone was there for the previous earthquakes and would know what to do.


"Many people have moved here since and others will have forgotten the finer points of how to cope."

Hempseed said trauma could affect people in different ways.

"Some people will be visibly shocked or distressed immediately after the earthquake. Others may be quiet or withdrawn. For some, the effects can take longer to emerge.

"Most people cope really well immediately after a disaster because they are running on adrenalin and cortisol. When that wears off, you'll start to see the event affecting more and more people."

Long-term stress is more harmful than acute stress, Hempseed said.

"Battling insurance companies and moving houses, schools and workplaces all wear away at people's resilience. The Charity Hospital reported that if people needed earthquake counselling immediately after the Canterbury earthquakes, they needed two to three sessions. Five years on, and the average number of counselling sessions needed was 22.

"Many mental health services reported that the 2016 Valentine's Day earthquake affected more people than the previous quakes. Many people believed the earthquakes were over and finding out that they weren't set a lot of them back. We may experience a similar effect with this earthquake."

Hempseed said employers needed to be honest with staff.

"Let them know if you are okay or not. When you are honest with yourself and your staff, it allows them to be honest too.

"Many people will pretend they are okay and feel guilty for taking a break but it is important to look after yourself, especially if you feel you are not functioning well. This also goes for staff. Allow them to take regular breaks or time off if needed. Forcing them to work when they can't doesn't help anyone.

"Allow you and your staff to take each day as it comes. People are still raw, so instead of focusing on what needs to be done in a month or a year, just allow them to focus on today.

"If you or your staff need help, ask for it. The earlier people get help, the better."


smilingmind.com.au - This app can help you to feel calmer and more relaxed.

familyservices.govt.nz/directory - This website has a list of the more than 5000 social services in New Zealand. Someone somewhere will be able to help with the issue that you, your company or family is experiencing.

lifeline.org.nz or 0800 543 354.

youthline.co.nz or 0800 37 66 33. Free TXT 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz