Is It Okay To Help Your Talented Workforce With Personal Problems?

by George Rogers on December 22, 2014

Every office has employees who have issues going on outside of work. Perhaps they’re suffering from an illness, or have a family member who is ailing. Maybe they’re having a rough home life, a struggling marriage, or have financial problems. An employee might even be battling depression, alcoholism, or some form of mental illness.

Today’s average worker is typically faced with some form of challenge outside of the office. Some workplace managers may know about it, but don’t necessarily know how to help, or if they should even help at all.

How can workplace managers deal with an employee’s personal issues? While at first glance it may seemHow far is too far when extending a hand of support to an employee? simple to help employees through a difficult personal issue by simply being sympathetic and supportive, there’s actually a lot more to it than that. If not handled properly, what may have initiated as a personal issue could turn into a professional problem for both you and your employee.

The goal is to be helpful while not overstepping your boundaries and still maintaining a professional relationship in the workplace. Here are some tips to help you guide your talented workforce through a challenging personal problem.

You’re Still the Boss, Not a Friend

As cold as this may sound, it’s critical that the lines between supervisor and personal confidante not be blurred, or you could find yourself in hot water down the line. Remember that it’s your job as the manager to maintain a level of order in the workplace, even while helping your employees address their personal problems. To be there for your employees means more about giving them the space or time off needed to deal with their specific crisis, or pointing them in the right direction in terms of helpful resources without being the person they run to and spill all the details of their personal issues.

Make Sure the Workplace Itself Isn’t Part of the Problem

There could be many things in the workplace that could contribute to an employee’s sky-high stress level that actually affects their time outside of work. It could be something as simple as not providing enough light in the work space, or the workload is just too much to handle. Or perhaps it’s a matter of two employees who just can’t get along and are constantly at each other’s throats.

In cases such as these that stem from the workload or workplace environment, identify what steps you as a facilities manager can take to alleviate the problem. It could be just a matter of changing the workload, rearranging the office set-up to add distance between certain workers, or changing the layout of the floor space to allow for more natural light to come in. Changes such as these can easily be done by tapping into resources like iOffice’s space management software.

Offering some support to a struggling employee is fine, as long as it's within your professional boundaries.

Offer Employee Assistance Programs

While not necessarily new, employee assistance programs can be the answer to many FMs’ problems when it comes to dealing with personal issues that employees are suffering from. Although employee assistance programs are typically run by the company, they are likely managed by individuals that you don’t necessarily deal with on a daily basis. In this case, you can essentially avoid any confidentiality breaches or concerns about overstepping supervisor-employee boundaries. While these programs can sometimes directly help resolve any issues, many times they act as the channel through which your talented workforce is directed to outside professionals for additional help, such as counselors or psychiatrists.

Check in Once in a While

This subtle gesture is quick and simple, yet powerful enough to let your employees know that you care about their well-being, and that you want to make sure they are getting the help or support needed. Just stopping by their desk and asking how things are going, or even sending a quick email to check in can go a long way in showing the workplace is not just a professional environment, but a caring one too.

Allow for Some Flexibility

In many instances what is needed is some time off to deal with a specific crisis, and seek support as needed. It may be that a day or two is all that’s needed just to regroup from whatever is looming over an employee’s personal life. If a little time off work will help an employee deal with their problems, give it to them.

Unless you establish a back-up plan that addresses any scheduled work the employee does, work may pile up while she is away. Not only will this add further stress when the employee returns, but it could affect your bottom line as well. Team your employees up with others so all the work can easily be picked up by someone else if necessary. Putting a plan in place that is designed to accommodate for employees’ time away from the office can help lower the stress on everyone in the workplace, and help your company prepare for any sudden absences.

While handling today’s modern workplace and employees comes with a whole new set of challenges that more traditional offices never had to face, there are tools and resources that facilities managers can access to make life at work a little easier. Creating an atmosphere of support and compassion while steering clear of over-stepping professional boundaries isn’t always easy, but these tips can help you help an employee through a tough time.

By understanding your role as manager, implementing specific strategies, and accessing resources such as move management software to help ensure the office environment doesn’t compound the problem, you can effectively assist your employees through difficulties while maintaining your professional position.


George Rogers

George joined iOffice in February of 2006 as a Regional Account Manager, then served as the Director of Customer Support, and now is our Channel Account Executive in Business Development. George serves our current and future channel partner customers, seeking solutions that best fit their workspace needs.

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