When the Workplace Cares, Workers Do Better

By Michael McCafferty, FEI Senior Account Manager

During a recent weekend, I received a call from one of our customers in need of support: a serious accident had occurred with a piece of heavy equipment, and a long-term employee was severely injured. Thankfully, first responders had arrived within three minutes and the employee was rapidly transported to the ER for emergency surgery. While there were no fatalities, such is not always the case.

Over the years we’ve worked with many companies that have dealt with the unexpected death of an employee due to workplace accidents or, sometimes, acts of violence. There have been even more occasions where an organization was impacted by the loss of a customer, client, friend, or family member. Seemingly every week we hear from organizations experiencing some kind of trauma—injury, accident, death, etc.—that affects their workforce.

What can employers do when traumatic incidents like these occur? Actually, quite a bit.

First, it helps to understand the effects of these events (referred to sometimes as critical incidents). While no two individuals will have the exact same response to any event, there are often predictable reactions to traumatic incidents for both individuals and organizations. These wide-ranging responses run the gamut of reactions and include mental (numbness, denial, confusion), emotional (anger, fear, grief), and physical (headache, nausea) symptoms.

We often describe these as “normal reactions to abnormal situations.” When managers understand these types of reactions, it helps them better support employees who may be struggling to return to “normal” after witnessing a critical incident.

There are several simple ways managers and supervisors can support workers after such experiences:

  • Managers and supervisors are encouraged to reach out to the Assistance Program for suggestions on how best to support and respond to employees experiencing reactions to a traumatic event, including how to promote the use of the Assistance Program’s free counseling benefits.
  • Organizations should consider holding debriefing meetings after an event, during which time a trained Assistance Program representative can meet with employees to help educate them about their reactions and normalize their responses.
  • In the case illustrated above, we at FEI worked with the organization to provide additional paid time off for those employees most acutely affected by witnessing the terrible injuries to their colleague. This allowed for the time and support needed to connect with their support systems and helped them recover in a less stressful environment.

The thanks employees express for these support services—both to us at FEI and to their employers—speak volumes about the appreciation they feel for the organization’s investment in employee well-being. This in turn has led to much higher levels of loyalty and employee engagement, even during tough times.

If you’d like to know more about how your Assistance Program can support your organization before, during, or after a traumatic event, please reach out to your Account Manager.