As a business owner or manager, do you often help employees cope with their personal problems?
Employees can encounter difficult personal problems and situations in their lives that may potentially affect the quality of their work. Whether it's a sick child, emotional and psychological problems, or a pending separation or divorce — pretending such challenges don't exist is not the ideal way to help employees get back on their feet and resume their productive work habits.
So what is the role of an owner or manager in these situations? Here are some insights and tips for helping employees cope:
Make Sure the Issue Isn't Work-Related
It's a good idea to keep an eye on employees and see if someone is displaying signs of stress that are related to the workplace. In these situations, there may be tangible steps you can take to alleviate the situation.
For example, if an employee feels overwhelmed because his or her job duties require too much time away from a domestic problem, look into flexible work schedules as a possible solution. Are there ways to change that person's work hours? Is a long daily commute contributing to the individual's stress and, if so, what ridesharing or transit options exist to reduce that stress? In some cases, an employee may just need time to "regroup" and a temporary change in work schedule is the best answer.
Maintain the Line Separating Boss from Friend
Helping employees cope with personal problems can be tricky, especially if the line between work and personal life is blurred. Rather than lapsing into some type of "therapist" role, says business writer Minda Zetlin, "a just-the-facts-ma'am approach that focuses only on the specifics of the work performance" is preferable. It can be considered inappropriate to get personally entangled in an employee's marital issues, a son or daughter's substance abuse problems, etc.
Explore and Promote Available Community Resources
Assuming your health insurance carrier doesn't offer an employee assistance program (they are often available as a stand-alone service); there may still be many other community resources available. States and counties often provide wellness and mental health resources, some at low cost or no cost, as well as non-profit organizations. It's often the case that people simply don't know about the resources that might provide exactly the support they're looking for.
Cultivate a Supportive Work Culture
Where possible, small businesses should consider cultivating a workplace culture that's supportive of employees without any implied penalty if and when an employee needs personal assistance. Rachel Hastings of WFC Resources offers these tips:
- Set up an anonymous suggestion box to uncover key work/life employee conflicts.
- Include a statement or policy promoting employee wellness (physical and emotional) as a key element in your company's culture.
- Provide a list of community resources to all employees.
Stay in Touch with Employees
If and when a situation arises check in periodically and see how the individual is feeling. This reminds the person, and his or her coworkers, that their well-being remains a top priority even after a crisis has come and gone.
Business owners and managers aren't responsible for "fixing" a non-work-related issue in their employees' lives. But by emphasizing your concern for their well-being — and providing access to available resources — you can create a workplace environment that's clearly "pro-employee." When word gets around about this type of culture, you may find a greater degree of interest among prospective job candidates, and your current employees may be more strongly motivated to stay with your business.
Many small companies have difficulties dealing with their employees' personal issues, but with these tips and help from an employee assistance program, you may be able to mitigate the impact on your business while still helping your employees.