It's not realistic to think all communication will take place in a planned and controlled manner. So make sure you are prepared for these particular circumstances by reading through the information below.
How do I support an employee who has become distressed?
- Provide a private place for the employee to express any emotion.
- Try not to let the employee leave the work premises still in a state of distress - don't automatically send them home.
- Ask what kind of support they would most appreciate at this moment, ask them what they need from you right now.
- Ask if they need you to contact someone for them.
- Reassure the employee that they are valued as part of the team and organisation.
- Be open and direct: address the situation and if the employee believes work has caused their distress listen without passing judgement. Diarise some time to talk through the whole situation and jointly come up with some solutions. Remember the top tips for managing this meeting in It's good to talk!
- Remember, you're not a medical expert, so don't stray into trying to diagnose a condition or counselling.
- It might feel appropriate at this stage to begin to discuss some immediate possible in work support such as flexible working hours for example.
How do I keep in contact with an employee already on absence leave?
It is important to maintain regular contact with staff who are on sick leave. You might worry that contacting an absent employee puts pressure on them but if done sensitively it may reassure the employee and enable both parties to be kept informed of any progress.
The key is how you go about it. If contact means phoning up with a "When are coming back to work?" question then it will be unwelcome and unhelpful.
However, if it's a phone call with a "Can I do anything to help?" approach, that doesn't discuss specific work tasks, but instead encourages conversation about what colleagues are up to and what's going on generally at work, then the benefits are clear. The employee still feels part of things. They still belong.
At some point when the employee is ready, they might like to meet up. They may feel uncomfortable about coming into the workplace so suggest a neutral venue such as coffee in town.
It's important to strike a balance between taking a lead from your employee and gently encouraging continued communication to aid their recovery and progress back to work.
Talk to your internal HR Manager about what support they can give you to support you maintaining your relationship with your employee, and the possibility of bringing in external support to help manage the relationship and support the employee back to work.