Major life events


How to support your team when times are tough

When employees have to deal with stressful situations at home, it can often affect their performance at work and have a negative impact on their health. Unfortunately, problems tend to go unnoticed because people feel obliged to keep their personal and professional lives separate.

As an employer, you can’t control what happens outside the office but by offering the right help, support and advice; you can take the pressure off anyone who is finding it hard to cope with major events in their lives. Here are a few suggestions that might come in useful:

1.     Recognise the symptoms

Anxiety comes in many shapes and sizes. Personal setbacks, such as divorce, separation or the death of a family member are notoriously difficult to manage but so too are life-changing events such as marriage, moving house or having a baby. If you’re going to step in and offer a helping hand, you need to be able to identify when your employees are struggling.

The tell-tale signs of stress and anxiety include increased absence, chronic lateness and a lack of motivation. You should also look out for individuals who seem withdrawn or more emotional in their behaviour – such as being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive.

2.     Take the time to talk

Suspect that an employee is going through a tough time? Don’t let it become an elephant in the room. Talk to them about their situation, ask if they’re OK and let them know that you want to help. Even if they appear fine on the surface, they may be finding it harder than they’re letting on.

Bear in mind, not everyone feels comfortable discussing their personal problems at work – while a broken leg is widely accepted as a legitimate cause for concern, a broken relationship is often viewed very differently. Simply let your employee know that you take stress just as seriously as any other illness.

3.     Ease the pressure

Once you’re aware of a problem, make it clear that you don’t expect your employees to carry on as normal. The more support you can offer in the short-term, the more likely they are to recover quickly and avoid any long-term issues.

Revising existing targets and deadlines is a good place to start. Also think about excusing the individual from attending work functions or public events. Just be sure to ask them first, as these occasions may actually be giving them a much-needed sense of normality.

4.     Offer practical solutions

Routines can be difficult for anyone who is coming to terms with major changes in their life. As well as lowering your workload expectations, you can proactively support your employees with flexible or home working. Obviously, every case is different, but it may also help to put a formal structure in place to guide your managers.

Looking for a hands-on solution?

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is an affordable way of providing employees with 24/7 counselling support – either over the phone or online. Depending on the circumstances, you might even consider paying for some face-to-face counselling sessions.

5.     Help your employees get back to work

Returning to work can be one of the most daunting stages of going through a life-changing event. Chances are - it will be physically tiring, emotionally draining and largely unpredictable. So, if there’s any way you can make the process easier, it’s likely to be appreciated.

Speaking to your employee before they return to their role can help a great deal. It’s an opportunity to assess how they’re feeling and discuss the options available – such as reducing their hours or adapting their routine. It also allows the individual to voice any concerns or make any requests of their own.

Whatever their requirements, it pays to be as flexible as possible because re-establishing a routine isn’t always easy and a few short-term sacrifices can be of great benefit… to you and your employees.


If you’re worried about work stress, there are plenty of company healthcare schemes that include appropriate benefits, from preventative advice to 24-hour counselling services. Get in touch with an Elect consultant on 0800 0232 785 or contact us here to learn more.





This article has been written in collaboration with Bupa, one of Elect’s insurance providers. It is for information only and is not specific advice. It is based on our current understanding of the attributed research which may change in the future.