Agency.com To Give Employees Grief Counseling

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Agency.com, an Internet technology and marketing firm near ground zero in New York, is focusing solely on the business of comforting employees.


Although none of the 120 Agency.com and 78 i-Traffic employees were harmed in the blast near their building, 20 Exchange Place near Wall Street, executives say they realize their employees have experienced significant trauma.


"Many of these young people -- a lot of folks -- have never seen this before. And, last night, they arrested more suspected terrorists. It's a real concern about how safe is safe. Nobody is panicking, but there's still a lot of these crazy people running around the East Coast," said Ron Kovas, president of i-Traffic.


While those arrested at New York airports were cleared and released, the atmosphere at companies like Agency.com remained tense.


Many Agency.com employees who have families in the East traveled home, while others gathered at the offices provided by sister company Omnicon at 26th and Park Avenue. "Many of us are together now," Kovas said on Friday. "We are talking and trying to reunite as a company. We are still a company."


Only a few employees have been able to return to the building since it was evacuated on Tuesday to get server rooms operating and retrieve laptops and other items. "There is very limited access: The police and Army are not letting anyone downtown," Kovas said.


Meanwhile, employees who choose to return to work today will work at the Omnicon offices and will undergo grief counseling. Every employee will be required to go through a 90-minute counseling session, then employees can choose to attend individual counseling sessions after that. "Very often, it's the people that don't think they need it, that maybe really do need it," Kovas said.


Employees who need more time can take it. "We've told everybody that the first priority is their own personal situations. When they're ready to come back and join up with the company, we'll get our lives going again," Kovas said.


Meanwhile, work will continue with clients, especially those with immediate needs. Agency.com executives called all clients Wednesday morning. "Some clients said they must move forward, but some said, 'don't even bother calling us until you guys get through this,' " Kovas said.


One of the firm's clients, British Airways, automatically suspended all advertising after the disaster. However, Kovas does not yet know whether other clients' marketing campaigns will be delayed.


There has been an "outpouring of help" from people offering bottles of water to companies, opening up their doors, Kovas said. "I'm not a native New Yorker, I'm from California. Any bad stories you hear about New York goes out the window," he said.


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