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The war and humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, directly impacting Israelis and Palestinians, is causing intense distress in many parts of the world. Our global community is navigating grief, anger, fear, and many more emotions, many of which are compounded by the complex trauma of decades-long conflict in the region.
In the face of this turmoil, it’s critical to acknowledge and address the mental health struggles experienced by individuals, including employees, who are being affected by the events.
Understanding the impact of war at work
Depending on an employees’ situation, they can find themselves wrestling with a constant undercurrent of anxiety triggered by the uncertainty of the situation and the fear for their safety and the safety of their loved ones.
These feelings are a normal human reaction, and it’s crucial for employees to recognize there’s no right way to feel or respond. Employees may be experiencing trauma or extreme stress from the lack of control, ongoing unknowns, perceived threats, or not knowing where to get correct information.
It’s important for each employee to check in with themselves regularly when experiencing stress and anxiety. Their responses to the following questions will change over time, as they experience the ongoing impact of this conflict:
- What emotions are surfacing as a result of these events?
- Am I taking care of my physical and mental health through self-care practices such as exercise, meditation, or relaxation techniques?
- What resources or support systems are available to help me cope with my emotions during these times?
Conflicts and crises may be impacting employees more deeply than they realize, manifesting as both emotional and physical symptoms. When checking in on their mental well-being, employees must pay attention to the following signs:
Emotional, employees may experience:
- Overwhelming empathy and sadness
- Anxiety, worry, fear, or emotional numbness
- Anger and frustration
Physical, they might notice:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased tension or fatigue
- Headaches or illness
Strategies for supporting employee mental health
As employers, it’s essential to create a supportive environment where employees feel safe to express their concerns without fear of judgment. Leadership can create forums for people to speak candidly about what they’re going through and what support they may need. Additionally, employers can facilitate workshops and training that educates employees and managers on recognizing signs of distress and providing appropriate support.
To support the mental health of employees, employers can implement flexible work arrangements, allowing employees the time and space needed to process their emotions on their terms.
In addition to facilitating safe spaces for open dialogue, organizations can provide resources like online therapy platforms, stress management workshops, and access to crisis hotlines. Providing counseling services and establishing safe spaces within the organization encourage employees to express their emotions and seek guidance without reservation.
By embracing supportive measures across culture and benefits programs, organizations can better prioritize their workforce’s well-being and foster an environment of understanding, compassion, and resilience.
How employers can help build employee resilience and be advocates of self-care
People take their cues from how leadership behaves. That’s why it’s important for leadership to model behaviors that strengthen mental health and well-being. Leaders can set an example by:
- Acknowledge their feelings without judgment
- Talk about how they’re feeling with others
- Give themselves permission to continue on with their daily life, allowing joy and pleasurable activities
- Being mindful about how they receive news, avoid overexposure or mindless consumption
- Participating in activities that align with their values
Additionally, leaders can encourage mindsets and practical actions that help individuals and teams build resilience, such as:
- Exert control: Focus on aspects of life where they have influence, empowering themselves amid uncertainty.
- Meaningful focus: Concentrating on activities that hold personal significance, infusing life with purpose and positivity.
- Mindfulness exercises: Engaging in mindfulness exercises, grounding themselves in the present moment and finding peace.
- Get outside: Spend time outdoors, connecting with nature’s calming influence to rejuvenate their spirit.
- Maintain healthy connections: Foster and maintain healthy relationships, drawing strength from the support of loved ones.
- Navigate healthy boundaries: Identify what depletes their energy and what revitalizes them, setting boundaries to preserve their emotional resources.
- Prepare responses: Plan how they’ll respond to known triggers, equipping themselves with strategies to face challenges with resilience and composure.
Prioritizing employee mental health during conflict
As the world grapples with the developing conflict in Gaza, acknowledging and addressing the mental health needs of employees is essential to fostering a supportive workplace. By placing mental health at the center of our concerns, we nurture the well-being of individuals and fortify the foundations of our communities and organizations.
Employees who feel supported in their mental health journey exhibit resilience in the face of adversity, leading to a workplace culture of compassion, understanding, and strength. By standing together in our resolve to prioritize employee mental health globally, we can work together to build a more resilient future where the well-being of all is cherished and protected.
Learn how HR leaders can implement strategies that support employee well-being when a crisis hits.