We all sometimes struggle to maintain work/life balance, but when an employee’s personal problems start to interfere with their job performance, it becomes a problem for everyone.
Poor mental health and stress can affect physical functioning on the job, productivity and engagement with coworkers and clients. In addition, depression and other mental illnesses are associated with higher rates of disability and unemployment.
Signs That Employees May Be Struggling with Personal Problems
To recognize when an employee may be struggling, it’s helpful to know the warning signs of stress, depression and anxiety in general:
- Decreased energy and low motivation
- Poor concentration and difficulty making decisions
- Loss of interest in work or in other people
- Fatigue and headaches
- Irritability and excessive anger
In addition, employees dealing with personal problems may engage in behaviors that detract from work, such as spending too much time on personal phone calls or missing work frequently.
How Employers Can Help Employees Having Personal Problems
Even when employees are dealing with serious personal problems, employers still must enforce work standards for performance and conduct. At the same time, employers have legal responsibilities for assisting employees in need.
Here are some strategies for dealing with an employee who may be struggling with personal or emotional problems:
- On-the-job resources. Employers can make practical information and tools available, such as mental health brochures and other literature, free or subsidized screenings or counseling and wellness workshops. It helps to remind employees of the company’s employee assistance program (EAP) and available referrals to mental health providers.
- Constructive feedback and flexible approaches. If you notice that an employee is struggling, you might schedule a meeting to discuss your observations, the employee’s current job performance and a performance improvement plan. The employee may improve with minor adjustments to how they work. For example, a different approach to managing workload or project deadlines may boost the employee’s productivity and confidence.
- Reasonable accommodations. Mental health issues and behaviors may invoke protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and require the employer to give “reasonable accommodations” to the employee. Examples of reasonable accommodations include work schedule flexibility, more frequent breaks and a reassignment of job duties.
- Time off from work. The employee may benefit from taking vacation or unpaid leave to handle personal issues. In some cases, they may qualify for legally protected leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), for example, requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to employees who are unable to work because of a serious health condition or who need to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition.
Please contact MarathonHR to learn more about how we help clients implement effective policies and procedures related to employee performance and workplace productivity.