How to Support Employees in Tough Times
Employees are more than just workers, they are people. That means that they have their own lives that they live outside of the workplace, and their own problems, too. As happy as their smile may appear, you never truly know what is going on behind closed doors.
As an employer, you have a responsibility to offer support to all members of staff that require it – as well as making sure that they know that help is there should they need it. Far too often, members of staff are reluctant to want to speak to their superior with issues because they are unsure as to how they will be received.
The types of issues that can affect employee performance, morale and attendance include mental health, informal care responsibilities and medical concerns. It can be difficult trying to pinpoint employees struggling with such issues, especially when there may be no telltale signs appear and when they do, it might be too late.
Supporting Employees with Mental Health
Mental health is one of the biggest reasons behind employees falling behind on their work, often resulting in them calling in sick (often citing false reasons) or leaving altogether. A structure must be in place in the company that clearly states the steps that are taken should an employee ever report that they are struggling.
Equally, it shouldn’t just be down to the employee to come forward. More often than not, they won’t because they feel embarrassed talking about such matters. As a manager, you need to be aware of changes in behaviour, attitude towards colleagues, punctuality and anything else that is out of the norm to their usual character.
If you have any concerns, invite them for an informal chat – that means don’t lead them to believe that they are about to be disciplined. If an employee is suffering from poor mental health, such as depression and anxiety, they should be allowed a safe space in which to talk. Bring up any concerns that you have, in a non-accusatory manner, and ask if there may be any reason to explain. This may help your employee to open up about any issues they may contending.
Any information shared should remain confidential between whoever is in the room, as well as anyone else who needs to be informed (such as HR). They may have concerns that private matters will become common knowledge in the workplace (a common issue for employees working in small teams, where everyone apparently knows everything). Acknowledge their concerns and reiterate that anything personal will not be discussed to or in front of anyone it shouldn’t be.
Helping Employees in a Medical Crisis
A medical crisis or emergency can happen at any time without warning. Despite the negative commercial effect that losing an employee for a prolonged period of time may have, the best employers recognise that this is futile compared to the experiences that the employee is enduring. For example, if an employee reveals that they are to undergo treatment for sarcoma cancer, the number one priority is to ensure that the member of staff has the full support of the business and that you will do everything possible to work around them and their needs.
An employee may not be the one who is directly affected, but a loved one is (such as a spouse, parent or child etc…). Such emergencies may mean that they have to leave immediately to be with their loved one for support, or childcare reasons. An employee must know that the employer understands their position in such circumstances and have confidence that they will not be stigmatised for leaving their post at short notice.
Always Have a Contingency Plan
The best teams always have a plan B for if and when life gets in the way. That means always making sure that at least two people can fulfil different roles and responsibilities in case one of them is out of action for whatever reason. Often, things cannot be helped, but many companies fail to have a contingency plan in place. This is when employees feel pressured to remain at work when they shouldn’t be – this leads to presenteeism and a drop in morale and productivity.
It is good practice to have a backup in every department, with someone ready to pick up the pieces. This is not only essential for such emergencies, but also in the case of staff taking annual leave and employees moving on, which happens.
When an employee has such an emergency, they already have enough on their plate without an employer making life difficult for them. They don’t want to be a nuisance or cause an inconvenience. Be kind and supportive because, if not, they will remember the negativity and will likely look to move on elsewhere – resulting in further commercial disruption.