As we all know, employees have lives outside of work. While you can do your best to ensure that your staff have a happy and successful work life, personal situations or circumstances will typically be outside of your control. For better or worse, life happens. Your organization can help by providing benefits (for example, extra vacation time, personal leave, health and dental coverage, etc.) that assist with work-life balance and that may ease the stress of personal situations. For example, allowing time away to attend a child’s medical appointments. When the death of a loved one occurs, offering paid bereavement leave will help to alleviate a bit of stress for the employee. Or having disability insurance for an employee suffering from a serious illness will remove a financial burden that the staff member and their family would otherwise have to endure. As well, having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is also a great way to provide support to employees. Of course, there is a cost to having these benefits; however, if your organization is able to invest money to support employees in times of personal need, it will ideally pay dividends. For example, you will likely have a healthier workforce and will be more easily able to attract/retain employees.
When employees are facing a significant personal loss or challenge, they often may feel isolated from coworkers. If you have an employee who is off work for an extended period of time due to a health issue, reach out to him or her occasionally. Even if it’s a quick text or email to ask them how they are doing, they will feel supported. The last thing you want your employee to feel is forgotten about at a time when they are dealing with a major health challenge. Encourage their colleagues at work to also reach out. And if you have an event – for example, a summer BBQ or holiday party – that they are physically able to attend, make sure to send an invite. It may seem like a small gesture, but will ensure that they feel included.
Avoidance is a “strategy” that is sometimes used after a colleague has suffered the loss of a family member/loved one. Generally, it’s not because their colleagues don’t want to reach out, it’s more likely the fear of saying “the wrong thing”. If one of your staff members is on a bereavement leave, broach the topic with your staff. Encourage employees to contact their colleague – especially those that have a personal relationship with the individual – to let them know that they are thinking of them. (To assist in reaching out, there are many great resources on the Internet that may help employees feel better prepared for the conversation). As a side note, becoming more comfortable in communicating with someone that is going through a loss is a good skill to have, whether in the workplace or otherwise.
Supporting your employees through life’s ups and downs will ultimately lead to greater employee engagement. After all, people will feel more valued if the organization “has their back” and supports them through difficult circumstances.