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17 Jun 2024

Expect the unexpected: how to support employees managing life events

When employees are affected by life events, you can help by offering focused and structured support

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Personal life events can have a huge impact on those experiencing them. What is often overlooked is the associated impact on people, such as family, friends, and even colleagues, close to them and on the organisations that they work for. We are 24-hour humans and don’t have a work/life switch. Accordingly, organisations are realising the need to support their employees from a personal perspective as well as a business perspective. 

Recent research has attempted to determine the impact of life events on the working population. Of those employees surveyed, 63% said that in the previous two years, they had experienced a life event or had caregiving responsibilities which had affected their ability to work. Of these, 65% reported that that life event negatively impacted their productivity at work, with more than half taking a leave of absence or resigning from their role. A remarkable 78% called for greater support from their employer. While the numbers speak for themselves, it can be difficult to know where to start from a business perspective. So, when creating your strategy, consider the following eight top tips:

1. Wellbeing and benefits strategy

Consider whether your existing wellbeing and benefits portfolio and strategy are sufficient to meet the needs of your workforce. It is important to look at solutions which provide meaningful and practical support to employees rather than short-term options with no long-term benefit. It is also sometimes important to give employees what they “need” and not always what they “want”. Employees struggling with life events are often overwhelmed by information, so employers must consider a single place to turn to for support that is tailored to the individual's needs.

2. Remember the diversity of your workforce

It is important to implement a wellbeing strategy that suits the diverse needs of your workforce. Tailored solutions which only meet the needs of one group could alienate others. Life events and the impact they have can vary significantly, so it is important to encompass wellbeing support options to fit the needs of the unique individuals in your workforce.

3. Mental Health Support

A cornerstone of appropriately supporting an employee experiencing a life event is to ensure that they have access to the appropriate mental health support. Are your existing solutions fit for purpose? Have you trialled them yourself? Can they be updated or enhanced?

4. Flexible working

Consider whether any steps can be taken in your flexible working policies to help employees through a significant life event. Allowing greater flexibility to manage working hours or working from home can make all the difference. Significant life events are often time-consuming and can also have an impact on finances. Finding solutions that allow your employees to continue working can make a difference to retention, productivity and wellbeing.

5. Robust company policies

Put in place robust and clear workplace policies and practices that help support all employees. Not all employees will want to speak to their supervisors about what they are going through so it is important to ensure that what they need is easily accessible. If employees are comfortable sharing information, then clear policies shoud be in place to guide next steps.

6. Language

Be aware of the language used when speaking to an employee going through a significant life event. Empathetic language can often have a more positive impact than sympathy when supporting someone.

7. Training

What training is needed to help line managers and human resources (HR) leaders (as well as the wider organisation) support their employees? An employee may feel more comfortable approaching a well-trained manager for support.

8. Communication

It is important to ensure that the support available is readily accessible to all and communicated clearly ahead of when it could be needed. Support policies are fruitless if the employees are unaware of what is available. Many serious life events are incredibly personal, and an employee may choose not to share this with their employer. 

In partnership with ApiaryLife

Life stage and life event support delivered by experts with legal backgrounds.

Contact us today