Employers have legal responsibilities to ensure a safe and healthy workplace, and mental health and wellbeing are just as important as physical health. Legal battles can take a massive toll on people’s lives and brain space, resulting in reduced capacity for effective working. Being aware of this, and making suitable allowances, is all part of an employer’s duty of care to their employees.

What can be done to help the employee?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with personal situations in the workplace. The support required will differ from person to person. It could be that the employee needs time off to attend legal meetings, they might need flexible working hours to keep up a custody agreement, or they may require counselling services.

Several employers now recognise that counselling can be of huge benefit to both their staff and the company itself, with happy and relaxed employees being more productive. There is also a will to want to be productive for a company which has looked after them.

Listening to your employees and finding out the particular struggles they are facing means you are better equipped to be able to help them. Sometimes, having somebody listen to them is all they need to feel noticed and validated, particularly at such a difficult time. Mental health is high on the social agenda and talking openly reduces any potential stigmas related to it.

Different types of personal legal battles

There are so many situations in which people can find themselves, often through no fault of their own, and it is important to realise that. It may be that someone has been off work for some time, having had an operation or maternity leave after having a baby, and medical negligence has been discovered. Not only is this a testing time mentally, but it could also have physical ramifications which demand extra compensation and workplace adjustments being made to allow the person to work to the best of their ability.

As much as we may like to think it’s possible for our employees to leave personal problems at home when they enter the workplace each day, it’s not always easy in practice. With the recent increases in remote working, it can be even harder for employees to maintain an emotional distance from their personal life whilst working from home. Perhaps a breakdown in marriage has led to messy divorce complications and your employee’s emotions run high at the slightest provocation. Or the death of a family member has resulted in a will being contested and strained relationships among the beneficiaries, which spill over into snapping at colleagues at work. Accepting this early and working with your employee to help them cope with whatever is going on in their lives is vital in ensuring it doesn’t escalate.

What are the benefits to the company?

Being a considerate employer often means that staff turnover is low, as employees respect the changes you have made to enable them to work in a way that supports them through personal battles. During emotionally charged times, knowing that the company they are working for has their back means they will also have the company’s back. Such employees will work hard to repay for the faith shown in them, once they are able to do so.

It will also show other employees that there is a strong company culture of support, which will raise staff morale among those who are not directly affected. As humans, it is in our nature to want to nurture our friends and colleagues when they are going through a difficult situation.

Recognise that it will take time

Legal wrangling can often take months, even years, to be sorted satisfactorily. It will probably get worse before it gets better, as having to relive scenarios and drill down into details can make feelings of resentment or trauma resurface. This procedure may be just as stressful as the initial incident, and employers need to recognise that it is an ongoing process with no set time limit to work towards.

The longer it takes, the more anxious your employee may get -— thinking that it will never end. Being mindful of their feelings and knowing you could both be in it for the long haul, may help to put their mind at rest as they know that their job is safe. Putting on a brave face at work and adopting a professional demeanour at all times may be tough and wearing. But knowing they have their employer’s support is priceless at times like these.

Final thoughts

Nobody likes to see anyone struggling and nowhere is this more important than at work. Many people use going to work as an escape from what is going on in their personal lives. But, ultimately, there will always be some kind of crossover when things get too much. Showing and providing support for your employees is not only a nice thing to do, but it also reflects well on the company.

A study by the Harvard Business Review, with Qualtrics and SAP, revealed that:

‘nearly 40% of global employees said that no one at their company had asked them if they were doing OK — and those respondents were 38% more likely than others to say that their mental health had declined since the Coronavirus outbreak.’

Checking in on your staff is the sort of thing that gets remembered, and having a social responsibility for your employees can generate good PR that also makes your company more appealing to potential employees and clients. At the same time, you’re producing a happy workforce keen to put the work in to ensure your company is successful going forward.

Positivity breeds productivity.