If you’re looking for fresh strategies to support employees dealing with personal issues, you’re in the right place.
Happy employees produce their best work and perform better. The research bears this out. For instance, an Oxford University study found content employees are 13% more productive. Similarly, earlier Harvard Business Review reports claim that satisfied workers are 31% more productive.
Regardless of business size, you can’t underplay the importance of a supportive working environment. This includes both acknowledging and helping staff through work-related and personal crises.
It stands to reason that businesses that do are more likely to retain their workforce. For example, Millennials are 22 times more likely to work for companies that cultivate a high-trust culture where they feel safe.
Needless to say, the recent COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of supportive workplace culture. One company doing just that is Ally Financial, which moved almost all its 8,700 staff to work from home. They also expanded their mental health, financial, and medical benefits. This includes tailored telephone consultations with appropriate professionals.
With that said, let’s look at 3 fresh strategies you can install to support employees dealing with personal issues.
Types of employee personal issues
It’s impossible to get through life without the occasional personal difficulty. For instance,
- The death of a friend or family member
- The severe illness of a close family member
- Mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression
Rather than pretending these issues don’t exist, businesses can adopt a more strategic and compassionate approach to employees coping with personal crises.
Strategies to support an employee dealing with personal issues
In the first instance, it’s essential to identify that whatever the employee is experiencing is, in fact, a personal issue and not something work-related. For example, stress caused by work conditions or other work-related matters, like work overload.
Once it’s clear the matter is a personal one, there are a few strategies you could adopt:
Strategy #1: Show empathy
Managers and HR professionals are first and foremost employers, not their employees’ friends. But, when presented with an employee’s personal issue, the best approach is to adopt listening and empathy skills. Next, you need to determine whether it affects the employee’s work and how.
It’s always important not to blur the lines between employer and friend/therapist and stick to the facts. However, an employer that shows empathy and compassion demonstrates they’re prepared to listen.
An empathetic workplace culture encourages employees to feel safe in their working environment. This means being able to trust their employer to keep personal issues confidential. Also, where appropriate, provide supportive solutions so they can continue working productively.
It’s worth noting, a report from the American Psychological Association found that as little as 17% of employees would recommend a company as an excellent place to work if leadership isn’t committed to wellness.
As little as 17% of employees would recommend a company as an excellent place to work if leadership isn’t committed to wellness.
Yet, not all managers have experience dealing with situations that demand listening and empathy skills. In these cases, businesses should coach managers on how to adopt such an approach to support employees during a personal crisis.
That said, here are some practical ways management could show empathy:
- Offering employees flexible working arrangements
- Offering a period of personal time off
- Referring employees to the company’s employee-wellness program for counseling.
Strategy #2: Maintain contact with the employee
Consistency is essential when supporting employees dealing with personal issues. This goes a long way to cultivating a safe environment where staff can share updates on their situation. Not to mention, employees who feel heard are more likely to be productive. A Salesforce report confirms this: workers are 4.6 times more likely empowered to work effectively when they feel heard.
A system where managers check in to see how the employee in question is feeling reminds them they’re cared for and that their wellbeing is vital to their employer.
Such a system could include:
- Scheduled catch-ups
- A pre-set checklist for employee wellbeing
- Managing a phased return to work after a significant life event or illness
You can also ensuring the business complies with relevant legislation. For example, the American Disabilities Act. This statute sometimes applies when employees experience mental health difficulties that impact things like concentration and communication. If this is the case, an employer may have to engage in the ADA’s interactive process. This usually involves asking the employee how best to help them meet their job’s demands.
Strategy #3: Develop supportive employee engagement practices
A report by the Engagement Institute found that disengaged employees cost American businesses a whopping $550 billion a year.
The solution? Boosting employee engagement. One such way to do this is to develop supportive practices. For instance, checking in on staff wellbeing. You could get an idea of how employees feel via surveys and open forums or even anonymous suggestion boxes. These are great ways to encourage employees to communicate personal issues they’re facing that could impact their work. These measures go a long way to establishing a healthy workplace culture where employees feel supported.
Also, when developing policies on employee support and wellbeing, it’s worth collaborating with employees across all levels of the organization to ensure they reflect reality. Too often, leadership teams seem remote and out of touch with the real lives of their employees. Instead, a collaborative approach to policy making is undoubtedly an effective way to address this issue.
Adopt long-lasting strategies
Rather than offering superficial employee perks, employers should adopt simple, long-lasting strategies to establish a more supportive approach to helping employees tackle personal crises.