The link between trauma in Ukraine and empathy at work
Diana Blažaitienė, who works in Vilnius, Lithuania, recruits Ukrainian women for jobs.
As an expert in recruitment and personnel leasing solutions (temporary hiring) at Soprana Personal International (SPI), Blažaitienė unfortunately saw it all. Many of his clients are those who have recently been displaced from parts of Ukraine as a result of the war with Russia. SPI provides recruitment services for offshore and onshore Scandinavian technical and administrative personnel in different career fields.
Although these refugees need jobs, stress in the form of depressed moods and anxiety, along with all the tentacles associated with grief, can have a 24-hour effect on their mental health. Blažaitienė stressed the importance of workplace mental health services, not as an add-on, but as an essential offer for traumatized workers.
Beyond Ukraine, the business case for empathy
“Empathy in this situation is essential and is proving to be one of the most important skills for leaders, now more than ever. So in such cases, leaders need to know what is the best way for team members to feel better,” Blažaitienė explained in a recent interview with TriplePundit. “Maybe they need a reduced workload, more days off; being able to share feelings and emotions with HR specialists, colleagues or get professional help. It is crucial not to leave vulnerable people alone and to reassure them that they can feel safe at work as much as possible.
For an employee who had recently moved to Lithuania from Ukraine, Blažaitienė organized local advice and remedies such as manual therapy (think yoga) and “energy balancing” or meditation.
The employee said in an email exchange with 3p: “Therapy, meditation and communication with my family and friends in Ukraine helped me the most. It is important to understand that you are solely responsible for your life and your well-being. It’s no shame to take care of yourself.”
work and mental health
In the United States, mental health issues in the workplace have been a recurring theme, and the numbers seem to confirm that the concerns are warranted.
According to a recent Gallup surveyAmerican workers are among the most stressed in the world. Some 57% of American workers reported feeling stressed on a daily basis, compared to 43% of people who feel the same globally.
And it’s not just the implications of the Russia-Ukraine war on US global relations, or even the pandemic that has deflated workers’ mental health, but “all of the above”: the images visuals of conflict, job cuts, family disruption, the failure of family support systems such as schools and daycares, a society reeling under racial tensions, and threats to homeland security.
Jim Harter, Gallup’s Director of Workplace, suggests five things employers can focus on to improve employee engagement and help people thrive: workplace wellness, social wellness, financial well-being, physical well-being and community.
Four Necessary Steps to Address Employee Mental Health
But Blažaitienė suggests a more interactive response to an employee suspected of being in distress, with four steps you can take to tackle the issues head-on.
Situational Awareness: The message from company management should be one of open support and understanding that everyone can feel different emotions.
Teach employees to recognize symptoms of stress in their colleagues: Changes in behavior, mood or clothing can be signs of emotional distress.
Encourage employees not to “doomscroll:” Motivate people to focus on what they can do: donate, join a support initiative, volunteer, etc., rather than constantly focusing on the headlines.
Remind workers of the variety of resources available to them: Employers should make access to mental health information easy and confidential for their employees.
You could say that Harter’s suggestions are strictly “American” and in keeping with a culture that says, “Don’t bring your problems to work.” And although in the past personal and professional should remain as separate as church and state, another Gallup poll indicated that younger generations expect their workplaces to provide more support. just a paycheck.
There is, however, a relevant question arising from the comparison between Harter’s and Blažaitienė’s recommendations: does corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the United States extend to concern for mental health in the workplace? CSR easily boils down to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), sustainability and climate awareness. And no DEI program worth its salt excludes people because of their race, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity. But will mental health and its associated disabilities ever have a place at the same table as someone who is missing a limb?
Almost one in five American adults lives with a mental illness; that’s 52.9 million people, a compelling figure that should inspire business leaders to find a way to incorporate workplace mental health into CSR.
Image credit: Noah Eleazar via Unsplash