Life does not always go smoothly for those we care about, and this includes members of our staff.  The way that your store handles a crisis in the life of an employee can have a long-time impact on how that individual feels about working for you.

When you hear about a staff illness or medical emergency, or death of a loved one, it’s important to ascertain whether the employee involved wants it to be common knowledge.  If not, we feel it is essential that we can be trusted to keep his or her confidence.  But if it’s OK with the employee, we will send out an email to our staff (minus the employee involved) letting them know about the situation.  This prevents rumors from circulating and also makes sure that everyone has the same information.

Although we usually send flowers and/or a card on behalf of the store, it’s often a good idea to find out what the employee needs and pass this along to others who want to help. In addition to covering his or her hours at the store, delivering meals, dog walking and errand running might be appreciated.  The more specific the requests, the easier it is for colleagues to volunteer.

Communicating with everyone who cares during a serious illness can be a challenge. I highly recommend Caring Bridge, a pass-word protected site where either the patient or someone close to them can post updates periodically.  Those who have access to the site can then add a note of encouragement from time to time if they wish.

To coordinate volunteer efforts, there are a couple of online options. One that I’m familiar with is Lotsa Helping Hands, which sets up a calendar of needs (again, available only to those with a password) in order to match them with those able to help.

We tend to offer an employee going through a major challenge as much time off as they need, but in truth sometimes what they want is to get back to work as soon as possible.  For reasons that are sometime financial, and sometimes have more to do with mental health, it can be helpful to get the staff member back on the job as soon as they are medically cleared to do so.  Accommodating their needs for a lighter workload and a little extra TLC under these circumstances is often much appreciated.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder