Research confirms what HR Professionals already knew: employees that are in the divorce process are often less productive, stressed, and more prone to distractions and increased absenteeism.
Integrated Organizational Development estimated the cost per worker going through a divorce at about $8,300, an amount that not only quantifies the decrease in productivity of the affected employee, but also incorporates a supervisor’s involvement and co-workers who absorb the “employee’s slack”.
What can HR professionals do about divorce’s costs? Happily, these strategies – Train, Inform, and Protect – not only guard the bottom line, but also serve the interests of an employee who may be in crisis.
- Train Supervisors to Handle Subordinate’s Personal Disclosures Appropriately. Maintaining professional distance when an employee is facing a personal crisis can be difficult. Accommodating the employee’s need for a sympathetic ear or advice, however, may deter the employee from getting the professional advice or other resources that are needed or contribute to performance issues. Provide supervisors with strategies that promote appropriate boundaries.
- Maintain Information About Divorce Resources within the HR Office. Every HR office should have a “Divorce Packet” that includes information about divorce and COBRA coverage, QDRO Information, and any employee benefits that relate to legal, financial, or mental health services. Other information that an HR Office may choose to provide includes contact information for attorney referrals, Divorce Professional directories (such as Mediators and Certified Divorce Financial Analysts), mental health practitioners’ professional associations or a licensing agencies (such as the Secretary of State for Marriage and Family Therapists), and other divorce services (such as Visions Anew Institute and Divorce Recovery programs).
- Address Workplace Safety Issues. Unfortunately, many domestic relationships involve violence. In instances of divorce, domestic violence can be a real concern that can infiltrate the workplace. Take steps to make it easy for employees to share concerns about violence with the Company through supervisor training and an informational policy that can be found in the Handbook. Such policies can be specific with regard to how to report threats and to whom in the Human Resources office a court issued Protective Order should be delivered.
HR Professionals have an opportunity to make a difference in their organizations by being prepared to proactively address divorce, a recurring issue, in the workplace and quantify the impact.
Be sure to catch Jennifer’s session, When It Isn’t All Left Behind: When Family Issues Come To Work, at SHRM-Atlanta’s Annual Conference March 13 &14 at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, GA.
Jennifer Keaton is an attorney who has focused her practice on conflict communication, workplace investigations, training, and mediation/arbitration services with One Mediation in Buckhead. With over a decade of experience litigating employment matters, Ms. Keaton promotes internal dispute resolution processes that provide employees another option, other than court, to address disagreements and problems in a manner that often is faster and more cost efficient. Contact Ms. Keaton with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org .