Sometimes the line between the business world and the personal one blurs. An employee's unresolved problems can affect productivity and workplace morale. Here's what HR can do about it.
What impact does an employee's divorce, household fire, or serious illness have on your company? That depends on how you, and others in your organization, handle it. An employee's unresolved personal problems can walk with him into work on a daily basis. It's important that you, as the HR manager, are able to help that emotionally rattled person get connected with the resources he needs to solve his problems.
While it would be nice if we could draw a boundary between home and work, there seems to be an increasing trend for the office and home front to merge. Companies now, more than ever before, are offering EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs) that draw and hold both new and established employees. In fact, the ability to balance work and family life is the single most important job aspect, with 97 percent of workers indicating that it is "important," and 88 percent saying that it is "extremely important," according to a recent Rutgers University national poll of 1,000 workers.
HR has a key role in communicating with the employee in crisis, directing her toward an EAP that will help smooth her problems, and guiding her efforts to return to work as a productive team member as soon as possible.
Identifying the Problem
Before you can deal with a problem, you have to know that it exists. Sometimes an employee's personal issues are brought to HR by a supervisor. Other times, the employee herself will come to your office and reveal her problems openly. In either case, in your HR role, you want to communicate to the employee that the company cares about her situation and would like to help.
"When an employee is first dealing with a crisis, we have no hope of their being effective on the job," says Don McIver, vice president of human resources for MWW Group, a public relations firm in East Rutherford, New Jersey. "My position has always been to support, to empathize with their situation, and to work collaboratively on getting them through it," While the employee describes the problem to you, be sure to listen carefully. He will likely be upset, and may not be thinking clearly. It helps to reassure him that he doesn't have to worry about his job, and that you'll do whatever you can to help.
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