Supporting Staff

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Last week a business owner contacted me for some advice on how to best support a member of his staff going through some personal challenges. Apparently, his ex-wife had been in contact in relation to the divorce process and he was just emotionally slammed by the situation. Naturally, it was affecting his mental health and potentially his ability to work to his usual capacity. We designed a basic plan together to support the team member and help them both navigate these difficult times. 

Our conversation highlighted to me again how important it is to understand that your team members are not just workers, but human beings with personal lives and challenges. Whether it’s a family emergency, a health crisis, or a difficult personal issue, your staff may face obstacles that can affect their work performance and overall well-being.  

One of the first steps we talked about was ensuring the business owner maintained a supportive and understanding work environment. Allowing this team member or any member of staff share their concerns and needs without fear of judgment or discrimination is crucial. It is worth repeating the message to employees to come to you or a designated person in your organisation if they need support, and make sure they know that your door is always open for a private and confidential conversation. 

Another point we discussed was offering flexible work arrangements. This could include adjusting their hours, allowing them to work from home, or offering paid time off when necessary. By offering flexible work arrangements, he is demonstrating to team members that he cares about their well-being and is willing to work with them to find a solution that works best for everyone involved. 

One of the most effective ways of supporting staff through personal challenges is by providing them with resources and support services. During our meeting, we discussed a variety of support services that he could offer such as employee assistance programs, counselling services, or financial advisors. 

Another important aspect of our discussion was how the business leader was going to engage the wider team in meaningful ways to support this team member. Some ideas we noted down were holding regular team-building exercises or workshops that focus on communication, empathy, and active listening skills. He was also keen to consider some non-work-related activities for the team to enjoy and get to know each other better, nothing too crazy- just lunch together once a month at a local cafe.  In doing this, he will create a strong and resilient team that is better equipped to handle personal challenges and support one another through difficult times. 

Although not relevant to this case, I think it is prudent to add that in some situations, employees may need more support than what can be provided in the workplace. For instance, a team member may be dealing with a serious health issue or a family crisis that requires more time off than what is covered by your organization’s paid time off policy. In these instances, it may be necessary to provide additional support, such as extended leave or financial assistance. While this may seem like a costly investment, it is important to remember that supporting your staff through personal challenges can result in increased loyalty, better morale, and improved job performance. 

Our final point on the plan was to ensure the business owner follows up with this team member at regular intervals to make sure they are doing ok and to check in on their progress. It will be important to ask them how they are feeling and if there is anything he can do to support them. This follow-up will show the team member that the business owner holds genuine care about their well-being and that he is committed to supporting them through this difficult time. 

Supporting all employees through personal challenges is an important part of creating a supportive and understanding work environment. This business owner felt better prepared after we established the plan of 

  1. Inviting open communication  
  2. Offering flexible work arrangements  
  3. Providing resources and support services 
  4. Fostering a culture of support  
  5. Diarising following ups  

This plan ensures that he will be able to help this employee in the short term but also assist his wider team navigate difficult times as they arise in the future and therefore improve their overall well-being, continued engagement and productivity.   

If you or your team would like to talk to us about supporting your team members through personal challenges or would like to attend our Having a Difficult Conversation two-hour workshop, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].   

Nick Hedges is the founder of Resolve HR, a Sydney-based HR consultancy specialising in providing workplace advice to managers and business owners. He recently published his first book, “Is Your Team Failing Or Kicking Goals – Take control of your people and their performance”. It is a practical Response to the most pressing HR challenges, which can be found at

Disclaimer: The contents do not constitute legal advice and does not cater for individual circumstances.   The information contained herein is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.

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