How to Support Employees During Difficult Times

Mar 31 2023 | Insights

Undoubtedly, one of the best parts of managing others and working in a diverse team is being there to celebrate successes – both personal and professional. However, just as the success must be celebrated, there will inevitably be difficult times that your team may need support to get through.

This could be a personal loss, a period of ill mental or physical health, or even a professional setback. Whatever it is that your employee may be going through, it can be incredibly valuable to know in advance how to help in supporting them.

So here are our tools for supporting staff during difficult times – (we hope you never need them).

Supporting employees during personal difficulties

Offer practical support

When dealing with difficulty, those around us are often quick to offer a shoulder to cry on. And that’s important, but what can be more valuable in these times is practical support. This is especially true when dealing with employees experiencing difficult times in their personal life.

If somebody in your team is going through a hard time in their personal life, one of the first things to do is to take a look at their to-do list and consider what can be reallocated. When your plate has more on it than usual, there is little that will feel like such a relief as some of your to-do list being taken care of. What exactly can be reallocated will differ from person to person, and from situation to situation.

For example, if a loved one is unwell or has recently passed away, practical support may take the form of flexibility. This could mean reassigning presentations and big meetings so that your employee has the flexibility for appointments and unforeseen emergencies.

However, in other situations, it might not be flexibility but a reduced task list that would benefit. This might be facilitated by a conversation between your employee and yourself, or it might be a private consideration that you implement within the wider team. Either way – in altered circumstances, make sure that your employees’ to-do list is altered too.

However you handle it, make sure to offer practical support where you can. During times of personal difficulty, nothing helps more than having one less thing to worry about.

Offer emotional support

When it comes to emotionally supporting employees when they are experiencing a period of difficulty, you need to find the right balance between offering support and ensuring their privacy.

The best way to ensure an appropriate balance is to encourage and invite openness without demanding it. Offer your staff a space to share their feelings, needs, and concerns without putting pressure on them to do so.

So, creating an open dialogue between yourself and your staff is helpful. But even better is creating an environment of openness in the wider team. By prioritizing open conversations and mutual support, you can ensure that even if you yourself are not able to provide support, it will be on hand for whomever needs it. Plus, this ensures that your staff have somebody in the workplace to talk to if they ever feel uncomfortable coming to their boss.

Though having an open dialogue between boss and employee is certainly very valuable towards creating a safe space at work, it is still essential that, where possible, managers offer mental health and emotional resources on behalf of the company. It’s just part of caring for your team.

Offering space to share involves creating access to resources too. According to Mind UK, 1 in 5 workers are dealing with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or stress, so having support and resources in place is very important.

Having these resources readily available so that your staff may access them as and when they’re required means that you don’t necessarily need to intervene and can rest assured that support is available when it is needed.

But how do you prepare these resources?

Preparing for difficult times

It’s all very well and good knowing how to deal with difficult times when they crop up, but it’s best to lay the foundation before it gets to that point.

This means regularly checking in with how your team are doing – both professionally and personally. If you’re in regular communication with staff, then you won’t have to rely on them to come to you when difficult times do strike – you will automatically be in the know and can support them from the start.

Having an open line of communication between team and management also allows for the distribution of support resources without appearing to directly target one person. If one employee is struggling and this is when you choose to make support resources available to everyone, it might shine an uncomfortable light on the one person’s struggles.

If the resources are already accessible and have been signposted clearly, you are supporting your team without them even having to ask for it. This is why putting together an employee support ‘package’ that can be referred to when needed is a great idea. Collect and collate resources that can support struggling employees and make sure that they are easily accessible to all, at any time.

These resources can take any of a number of forms. If your company offers private health insurance, you might choose to signpost how employees can most easily access mental health support through insurance. Similarly, if employees are dealing with physical health issues, it might be extremely helpful to organize a discussion with HR or the private insurer about their coverage.

Mental and emotional health resources could be books, pamphlets, links, and apps that you might suggest. Practical support resources might include videos, websites, and books that help staff to understand and maximize their own working style so that the impact of difficult times is lessened.

Make sure that any resources you do make available to your staff are clearly posted, neatly stored, and discretely accessible. A key tenet to good moral and practical support is to respect privacy and encourage openness, so anonymity and discretion are vital.

Handling professional setbacks

There’s no doubt that professional setbacks can be extremely disappointing, demoralizing, and difficult to handle. We know how important setting goals is to your workplace progression, but setbacks are an unfortunate fact of life - even when working towards our goals, there will inevitably be some bumps along the road.

This is where coaching can help. Working with an EZRA coach, you can create a bespoke program catered to your goals, your skillsets, and your timelines – and this means that you have somebody on hand to support and assist you when setbacks and problems appear. Whether you invest in coaching for yourself, or explore coaching for your employees, it is an invaluable source of support during difficult times.

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