When they come back to work, let them know they have value.
People are messy, and we employ people. Personal issues happen to us all, and many times those issues come to work with us. They don’t remain in our cars or trucks when we arrive. They walk in with us, imbedded in our hearts and minds. And because of that, our behavior at work, and our ability to do our job…to be resilient…to operate effectively in a team setting…and more…is all too easily diminished.
It’s especially hard when an employee has to deal with a significant personal loss. This loss could be of a loved one or a relationship. It might be an issue with their children. These losses may lead to a long time off work, a personal journey of grief, loss, self-doubt.
Author Sheryl Sandberg, whose book, Option B, addresses her personal grief journey when she returned to the workplace after losing her husband to an unexpected death.
She talks about the importance of employers letting their employees know that they, still believe in them…in their abilities, their dedication and ultimate perseverance. When she came back to work, she was doubting her abilities to do her job. However, her employer made it clear that they were there for her. Her advice to employers: “When hurting people come back to work, let them know they have still value.”
Sandberg also encourages co-workers to “show up,” to not just say the standard “Let me know if there is anything I can do,” but to actually do something for their hurting co-worker without being asked.
Loss can also be defined in terms of mental health challenges, like depression. Depression can be present in a workplace, even more than an employer could know or guess. Even though depression has been discussed far more openly in the past few decades, mental health concerns can remain a taboo subject in some workplaces.
People who wouldn’t hesitate to tell their manager about a problem with their physical health may be embarrassed to do the same about their mental health. They may be concerned that even suggesting they suffer from depression or anxiety could adversely affect their job or career. Or they might fear adverse reactions from co-workers.
Mental health issues are more prevalent in the overall population than many people realize — both serious episodes as well as chronic issues. In 2014, for example, 6.7% of American adults experienced a major depressive episode (one lasting two weeks or more), according to the National Institute of Health.
In these instances, the employer can “show up” by making sure their medical insurance provides adequate mental health coverage. They can also provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides confidential, professional help as part of the employee’s benefits package.
People are messy, and we employ people. It comes down to whether we see the “mess” as an inconvenience to the operation of the company or in having to bend over backward to accommodate the situation, versus an opportunity to do the right thing and make a real difference in the life of one who desperately needs us to show up.
Sources: Some information from Employee Benefit News, “Accommodating Mental Health Issues at Work”; Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant