In light of recent events in California and Paris, we are reposting this blog from 2013.
By Agella Kevas
Your support system: it’s bigger than you think!
When you recall your personal support system, of course you think of your family, friends and maybe even a few trusted advisors. Did you ever think that your workplace can also be a terrific support system in difficult times?
The average person spends more than eight hours a day at work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That represents over one third of your day. Another one third is usually spent asleep. This means that you may be spending more time with your co-workers than you do with your loved ones. As you share your day with co-workers, close bonds may develop.
Your colleagues may become friends as you go through the day to day efforts of your job. You can celebrate your professional successes, as well as worry together over challenges. At the same time, you are also sharing daily in each other’s personal lives. Colleagues may lose loved ones, or may be going through a difficult divorce/relationship break-up, or get bad news of a diagnosis. Co-workers are often in the foreground to help each other get through it all.
Many national tragedies like 9/11, the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings or just recently, the Boston Marathon bombings occurred during work hours. I distinctly remember where I was during 9/11. It was an iconic moment shared with my co-workers. We stared in disbelief and prayed silently together for the safety of our country. Our workplaces can provide an invaluable support system during these very difficult times. Together, co-workers can express feelings and share grief.
Similarly, during times of personal loss or crisis, our workplaces can be places of support. For example, if you are grieving the loss of a loved one, or dealing with serious illness – your own or with someone close to you – being at work can be a healthy outlet and a welcomed distraction.
Here are a few ways to nurture a supportive environment in the workplace:
- Create an atmosphere that allows for open communication.
- Establish a fund (either from your organizational budget or one that everyone contributes to) that is used to send cards or a plant or a meal to someone who is in mourning or is recovering from illness.
- If a colleague is going through a difficult time, let that person know you are thinking about them without being intrusive. Allow them to share whatever details they are comfortable revealing.
- Acknowledge milestones through “Good and Welfare” announcements, either at meetings or through staff news bulletins.
- Avoid gossip.
If you are struggling with workplace and/or personal issues and need more support, many organizations have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that offers confidential counseling to employees to help them through a difficult time. You can also check out local community support groups, or request a brief consultation with a JCS mental health professional for some guidance.
By Agella Kevas, Senior Manager, JCS Career Center
The JCS Career Center offers comprehensive employment assistance that helps job seekers of all abilities and skill levels find and maintain employment. Services include career coaching, career assessments, resume and cover letter services, interview preparation, job readiness training, vocational rehabilitation and job placement assistance.