• Zelena van der Leeden, MC, CDC®

3 Simple Ways to Support Employees Facing Divorce

When my partner and I were going through our respective divorces, we struggled at work: if you are worried about your children, your health and your finances, it can be hard to focus and be efficient. Jake’s employer was very supportive and understanding of his situation. They understood that this was temporary and offered him accommodations so he could take time to go to court, meet with his lawyer and take care of his kids without adding extra stress to his already complicated life. I was a single immigrant mom tangled in a lengthy high-conflict litigation process, so finding time to go on my numerous business trips was difficult.

I was very open about my situation with everyone: I told my boss I had to sell my home because I could not afford the legal bills. I stayed up late to catch up with my deliverables, but my work-load kept increasing and my physical and mental health were suffering. Their solution was to fire me without notice.

You can probably imagine how I felt, but eventually I grew stronger and wise. Jake and I decided to start our divorce coaching practice and started offering corporate workshops to bring awareness about this life-changing and often extremely traumatic event. We help employers develop budget-conscious action plans to offer resources and assistance to employees facing marital break-down in order to avoid burn-out, stress leaves and loss of revenue.

Photo by Fizkes via iStock

Research has proven that compassionate corporate cultures foster creativity and collaboration and it also increases loyalty and employee retention. Depending on the size of your organization and the the value that you allocate to the well-being of your employees, there are numerous ways to support employees facing divorce, but in a nut-shell it all comes down to these:

1. Check-in with your staff

Whether you are a business owner, a manager or a supervisor, you are probably used to running meetings. Respecting people’s privacy and establishing healthy boundaries are important in every relationship, but we can't forget that we are also human. Most people can relate or feel empathy when someone is struggling, but we need to be extra careful when it comes to business interactions, especially when these occur between superiors and subordinates.

One tactful way of finding out how your team is doing is to incorporate the clearing technique before every meeting. This exercise allows participants to share what's on their mind with the group. It's a tactic designed to increase productivity in the workplace as it allows members to acknowledge that something might be distracting them and make an effort to focus on the task ahead. Aside from helping people settle down quicker, it also allows us to connect to each other on a human level. If an employee is thinking about court or is worried about not seeing his/her children, they might want to share it with the rest and this will give you a hint that this person might need some extra support.

2. Prepare a list of resources

You don't have to be a divorce coach or a therapist to prepare a list of resources that can support an employee facing divorce. Most people feel lost when it comes to marital break-down, but there is a plethora of experts and free resources out there that can make the divorce journey less painful: shelters, coaching, therapy, legal clinics, financial advisors, etc.

If you are too busy, or can't rely on an HR team, you can hire a divorce coach to do this for you. Many people facing divorce are often victims of abuse and it is important to ensure your employees are safe before even starting to worry about the legal process.

3. Have a back-up plan

Risk management is a big part of running a business, so being aware that an employee is involved in a high-conflict separation, will allow to prepare a contingency plan so your team can continue to function and your projects can be delivered on time and within budget. Divorce can negatively affect our mental and physical health, which can lead to short-term or long-term disability leaves that are usually stress related.

Understanding that divorce is taking a toll on one of your employees will allow to prepare ahead of time in case they need to take time off. If you are able to offer accommodations to remove any additional stress for this person, it will make a huge difference. Accommodations can include training or giving this employee a less stressful role while the storm passes. Thinking outside the box might allow you to promote collaboration within your work group and could spark some creativity among your staff.

If you want to learn more about this subject, we invite you to contact us. We are here to help and as a social enterprise we have vowed to help out regardless of people's financial situation, ethnicity or race.

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