How your company can support employees with incarcerated loved onesFeatured

One of the most heartbreaking and difficult experiences a person can endure is when their loved one goes to jail. It can make them feel a wide range of emotions, such as sadness, anger, and even shame. A deep sense of guilt as if they are somehow responsible for the jail sentence will also haunt them at times. And beyond those, they may feel very powerless and lost, not knowing what to do and how to move forward.

But as they say, despite any traumatic event, life still goes on. So, many still choose to try living their previous lives even when it's hard. As an employer, there are ways you can support them. If you don't know where to start, don't worry because I've got your back.

In this blog, I'll list some ways to support employees with incarcerated loved ones. Let's get started.

Create An Inclusive And Positive Environment

Usually, when a person has an incarcerated loved one, they don't only deal with their own emotions –they also struggle with other people's judgment. And this makes their situation even more difficult.

So, it's important for employers to build an inclusive workplace to give them a safe space so they don't experience the same stigma society has created. It can make them feel comfortable and accepted, which can help motivate them to come to work every day. Employers can strive to create a supportive workplace culture by providing training on diversity and inclusivity and encouraging open communication between employees and management.

Additionally, considering how the actual work environment affects our overall mood, improving the look of your office can help foster positivity. It can be in the form of having an uncluttered work area, nice ventilation, cute plants, or the proper lighting.

Foster Open Communication

Sometimes, even if the place is welcoming, employees may still want to keep their issues private from their employers, even if it really affects their productivity. Of course, this is a personal decision, but sometimes not addressing this can lead to neglect and a problem of internalization. Take the first action as the manager to avoid that and create a safe space for employees to share their struggles if they feel like they want to.

Lead by example by showing vulnerability and revealing some of your own struggles. Along with that, model healthy coping behaviors, including tips to maintain good health and an optimistic outlook. Showing employees your human side can make you a green flag for them. It can make them feel more comfortable sharing the problems they're dealing with.

When employees are encouraged to communicate their concerns to the management actively, the workplace becomes a community more than just a place that provides a paycheck. Fostering open communication enables employers to understand employees' concerns better and therefore develop a plan to address them adequately.

Provide Resources

Unfortunately, you can't always help your employees mitigate all their stressors outside of work. And while being open about navigating life without their loved one on their side provides a sense of comfort, it won't be enough. There are certain things that only professional counselors can provide. In light of this, it would be best to offer employees access to mental health services to help them cope healthily and practice self-care. You could organize weekly or monthly sessions for the entire team and ask a professional counselor or life coach to guest as a speaker.

Besides that, you can also support them in managing work-related stress. You may provide some tools, platforms, and tips to alleviate their day-to-day tasks. These would be helpful for them to keep up with your company's goals while dealing with personal issues.

Offer Flexibility

With the negative stereotypes of being related to someone incarcerated, it's understandable why many people in that situation choose not to socialize. That said, if the work can be done remotely, you could allow them to work from home or even offer flexible working hours. Not only will it give them time for their own, but they may also be able to have better productivity and performance in that setup.

Encourage your employees to take their regular PTO and respect their time off. Because sometimes, they use work as a coping mechanism. And while it may seem good at their KPI, it doesn't help on a personal level. It can leave them scarred for life if they don't face their issues.

And aside from their regular PTOs, it would be best if you could also give them personal PTOs for the times when it feels like they're carrying the world. This could give them time to process their grief and reflect and, of course, connect with their loved one in jail. It would really help them in so many ways, and there's no doubt that it can reflect in their performance.

The Bottom Line

In the blink of an eye, everything can change for the person incarcerated and their loved ones. As an employer, you can help employees dealing with this problem navigate their lives, even in the four corners of your office. After all, they're a part of the community you built in the company and they help the business grow. I hope this post helps you get a better understanding of employees with incarcerated loved ones and how to support them.

This isn't something we address a lot but it is most definitely happening more often than we realise! I could even apply some of these advice to anyone who is going through a rough time (eg loved one struggling with addiction, or someone who is going through some sort of a loss)Thank you for writing this piece for us, Sophia!
you're welcome, iynna!