Amid the escalating conflict in the Middle East, companies have a crucial role to play in supporting their employees who may be directly or indirectly affected by the ongoing turmoil.
As the world witnesses distressing images and headlines emerging from Israel and Gaza, it is imperative for employers to be mindful of their staff and provide the necessary support during these challenging times.
Here are some strategies that companies can adopt to support their employees, along with insights from HR experts and business leaders:
Employers should initiate company-wide communications to highlight the support options available for any staff members affected by the evolving situation in Gaza and Israel. Kate Palmer, HR Advice & Consultancy Director at Peninsula, recommends, “This can be done via email, intranet sites, notice boards or discussed during daily team meetings.” It’s essential to ensure that employees are aware of the resources and assistance available to them.
Flexible Working Conditions:
For employees with friends or family members abroad, consider allowing temporary changes to working conditions to facilitate their regular contact with their loved ones. As Kate Palmer suggests, these adjustments might include “flexibility with start and finish times, more extended rest breaks, or amended duties.” Such flexibility demonstrates empathy and support for employees going through difficult times.
Managing Political Discussions:
Given the heightened political situation in the Middle East, employers should be mindful of political discussions in the workplace. Zachary Chertok, HCM research analyst for IDC, emphasises the importance of maintaining a respectful and inclusive work environment. He explains that it’s important “to ensure that all employees are respected and treated equally” while addressing inappropriate or insensitive comments to prevent discrimination.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP):
Business leaders can offer an employee assistance program to provide professional support for employees’ mental health and emotional well-being. As the crisis unfolds, employees may experience higher levels of stress and anxiety. Such programs can be invaluable resources to help employees cope with these challenges.
Encouraging a culture of open communication is crucial. As Zachary Chertok mentions, “Organisational statements can reinforce common and baseline boundaries that define employee safety, found common values and lay the groundwork for the conditions of good stewardship and business.” This open dialogue can improve job satisfaction, motivation, and contribute to increased productivity and higher retention rates.
Proactive Wellbeing Checks:
Managers should proactively check in with the well-being of their teams regularly. Bertrand Stern-Gillet, CEO of Health Assured, highlights the importance of this practice during times of crisis, emphasising that it’s important “to reach out to staff and let them know support is there, should they need it.” These regular one-on-one catchups provide employees with an opportunity to open up about any problems they might be facing.
Politics Stay Outside the Workplace:
Employers should remember that politics should not be a part of the workplace. A culture of support should be created where every employee, regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs, feels respected and supported. As Bertrand Stern-Gillet emphasises, “Make sure your staff know that their health, safety, and well-being is the priority.”
Employees affected by the crisis may struggle to stay engaged and productive at work. As Kate Palmer recommends, offering reasonable adjustments can help them manage this challenging time. An open conversation around mental health and surrounding topics is always the best approach to take.
Companies have a significant role to play in supporting their employees during times of crisis, such as the escalating conflict in the Middle East.
By fostering a culture of empathy, open communication, and providing resources for emotional and mental well-being, companies can help their staff navigate these challenging times and ensure that their workplaces remain safe and supportive environments. It is essential for employers to recognise that their actions during times of crisis speak volumes and can have a lasting impact on employee loyalty, trust, and overall well-being.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.