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How to Support Employees Following a Stressful Event

Following stressful events, organizations often face the difficult task of empathetically communicating while taking the proper steps to promote employee well-being. Learn how Modern Health's employer playbook can help leaders and managers navigate how to support their workforce when a stressful event occurs.

A stressful or traumatic event goes beyond the normal day-to-day challenges of life. These events could include an assault, a threat to one’s safety, the death of a loved one, or world events like wars, hate crimes, and violence against particular communities. Unfortunately, these types of events are relatively common, and with 24/7 access to news, we are more likely to be exposed to them in our daily lives. Following stressful events, organizations often face the difficult task of empathetically communicating while taking the proper steps to promote employee well-being. We’ve put together some ways to support your workforce when a stressful event occurs. 

Responding to Stressful Events as an Organization

Company culture and leadership’s involvement should be key factors when deciding how to address stressful events as an organization. When and what to communicate should come from internal conversations that address culture, norms, and circumstances. Consider making this plan in advance so you aren’t caught entirely unaware in the face of tragedy or global events.  

General considerations to keep in mind for responding:

  • Respond as soon as possible following the stressful event.
  • Be mindful of who is most impacted by the event.
  • Validate and normalize feelings of helplessness.
  • Ensure support for managers so they are prepared for dialogues. Modern Health’s Stressful Events playbook includes ways to implement this support. 
  • Align words and actions in your response.
  • Follow up with employees a few weeks after the stressful event. 

Language considerations to keep in mind: 

  • Work to avoid stigmatizing language that may lead others to feel excluded.
  • Be specific about how your organization will support employees and address the tragedy (if you plan to do so). 
  • Clarify who employees can reach out to for support and ensure that those people are prepared for this responsibility. 

How to Support Employees Impacted by Stressful Events

It’s important to understand that no single organizational function or department can solve a stressful event or global crisis. What you can do is show up for employees with empathy and compassion without trying to diminish difficult emotions. Here are some ways to help employees in a tough spot:

  • Listen patiently and acknowledge their experience
  • Share how much you value them and why 
  • Be positive and hopeful about their ability to cope (avoid saying that “it will all be okay” or pointing out silver linings)
  • Be patient — recovering after a stressful event doesn’t happen overnight and may include setbacks
  • Encourage, but don’t force them to participate in different activities or events 

Get Modern Health Recommendations for Coping With Stressful Events

We’ve put together a complete playbook detailing actionable strategies for improving employee support in the workplace following a stressful event. It includes pre-written email templates for employee communications, thoughtful one-pagers, and communications guidelines for leaders and managers. 

Read the guide today