Everyone has times in their life when things go poorly. Unfortunately, there are many people each day who experience surprise injuries, unexpected deaths of a loved one, or a major disaster, such as a house fire. Expecting an employee to work through a situation like this is unreasonable, which is why many employers take it upon themselves to offer time to grieve, regain physical strength, or rebuild one’s life. However, the steps to do so are not always obvious, and being unsure of how to handle a situation can lead to issues down the road. Use the following tips to help you help your employees.
Cover Immediate Necessities
It’s five minutes until starting time and your employee is in a major car accident. What do you do? Managers should first ask the employee if there is anything they could do personally to help in this situation, and then follow through if there is a need. Then, the manager should aim to clear the employee’s workload for as long as necessary. A simple fender-bender may be a one-day fix, while a head-on collision could mean months without this employee, or with only a modified workload. Be sure to quickly reassign any time-sensitive projects, and cancel, reschedule, or stand in if your employee has any meetings. Aim to make the transition as smoothly as possible.
Limited But Meaningful Communication
Employees who experience a major life event should not be expected to have a weekly hour-long check in. However, encourage open communication as much as the employee needs. Be sure to check in with them regularly, although not too frequently. For example, an employee who lost a loved one might warrant a quick five-minute call or text once every few days. Play it by ear, but remember to be sensitive. Major events can seriously change how a person acts, so be cognizant of how your words will be perceived.
When the employee comes back, it can be tempting to get them back to 100% efficiency immediately. They may even think they are ready to do so. However, in many cases, this is wishful thinking. Try to ramp up your employee slowly, giving them 50% on day one, 75% on day three, and 100% the following week. Of course, just like the other points, you’ll want to play this by ear to ensure you are not causing additional stress for your employee.
Life events are bound to happen, and employers should do everything they can to navigate them effectively and with compassion. Make sure to remember these tips when a situation arises on your team.