How Can Employers Support Employees in the Wake of Tragic Events?

As our nation processes the senseless tragedies in Buffalo, NY, and Uvalde, TX, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and communities affected.

We’ve received several questions about providing support to the Uvalde and Buffalo communities and are working to evaluate options. We will share donation links as soon as possible so we can join together and maximize our collective impact. Please remember that fraud is an unfortunate byproduct of tragedy, so be careful when considering contribution opportunities.

In addition to our desire to help those affected by these tragedies, we need to recognize the very personal impact of collective trauma. Sometimes, these stories are close to home – geographically, emotionally, and spiritually. And, sometimes, they seem to pile up on each other. The effect can be numbing and distressful. It can cause anxiety, fear, and a feeling of powerlessness. 

These events can challenge our mental health and shake up our world. It’s important to take care of each other and, in the case of people strategy, our employees. It’s essential to monitor our mental health and well-being in times of stressful events. Reach out and let employees know that you are aware of the context in which we all live and that you want to help. Resources may be privately available or available through an EAP. As an employer, you can be a compassionate leader and contribute to positive employee mental health outcomes.

General Recommendations

An employer can help employees cope with collective trauma in the following ways.

  • Provide space, physical or virtual, for people to gather. Often this role is fulfilled by places of worship or other organizations, but given the prominence of the workplace in our lives, work is a place of important friendships and affection, and supporting each other can mean being together. Train managers to support team members in grief. 
  • Provide empathy. Equip leadership with the ability and permission to lead with empathy, to let others know that it’s okay to not be okay. Consider flexibility in workload.
  • Provide connection. If you see an individual that is struggling, reach out. Set aside time to be a listener to understand where you can help.
  • Maintain contact. No one expects easy solutions. Mental health and well-being require extended effort.

What if I don’t have an EAP? 

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a voluntary, work-based program that offers free and An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems. If you do not have an EAP, make sure your employees are familiar with your company’s health plan. Most plans cover mental health and offer the benefit of connection to a licensed clinician.

Communicate the Plan

  • Make sure your employees are aware of your company’s plan details. 
  • Make sure they know the number they can contact to find an in-network provider. 
  • Consider connecting them with support groups, mindfulness apps, and other digital health programs that can be immediately accessed.

What if I do have an EAP?

An EAP offers immediate access to confidential mental health assistance. If you have an EAP in times of crises or collective trauma, it’s up to you as an employer to create awareness.

Communicate the EAP

  • Make sure employees are aware of the details of your Employee Assistance Program. 
  • Make sure they know they have support for themselves or family members from an in-person or virtual licensed clinician. 
  • Connect them to online resources via the EAP website. 

Additional Resources

In addition, we know people across NFP may be struggling as they try to process the events. Please consider the variety of resources and support available to NFP employees. If you need additional support, please reach out to your HR Business Partner.

  • United Healthcare offers support at liveandworkwell.com or by calling (866) 447-3573. Also check out this PDF.
  • US employees can access SupportLinc resources, including guidance on talking with children, coping with grief, and dealing with uncertainty, via the PeopleFirst portal and the following documents.

Quick Resources

Coping with the Aftermath of a ShootingDealing with UncertaintyIt’s Okay to Not Be Okay
Talking to Children When the News is ScaryCoping with Grief After Community ViolenceGrief and Loss
Courtesy of SupportLinc, these are resource documents for anyone who doesn’t know what to say or do in the aftermath of a traumatic event that affects us collectively.

Always be specific with your support. Provide names and numbers. Acknowledge the limitations of any resources you cite. Do not discount or ignore the potential need for emergency care as well – whether this is a prevention helpline, the emergency room, or a mental health facility. If there is anything the pandemic has taught us, there’s no shame in reaching out for help.

Abby Ford is an Enterprise Account Manager with First Person Advisors, a subsidiary of NFP. She is passionate about employee-employer connection and mutual support. To connect with Abby, reach out via LinkedIn or by email.

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