The tragic events at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 27 has everyone looking for answers and support. When you recall your personal support system, of course you think of your family, friends and maybe even a few trusted advisers.

Did you ever think that your workplace can also be a terrific support system in difficult times?

The average person spends more than eight hours a day at work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That represents over one third of your day. Another one third is usually spent asleep. This means that you may be spending more time with your coworkers than you do with your loved ones.

Your colleagues may become friends as you go through the day-to-day efforts of your job. You can celebrate your professional successes, as well as worry together over challenges.

During times of personal loss or crisis, our workplaces can be places of support. For example, if you are grieving the loss of a loved one or dealing with serious illness – your own or with someone close to you – being at work can be a healthy outlet and a welcomed distraction.

Many national tragedies, like 9/11 and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, occurred during work hours. Most people remember where they were and who they were with. Tragedies like these can bring people together.

Our workplaces can provide an invaluable support system during these very difficult times. Together, coworkers can express feelings and share grief.

Here are a few ways to nurture a supportive environment in the workplace:

  • Create an atmosphere that allows for open communication.
  • Establish a fund (either from your organizational budget or one that everyone contributes to) that is used to send cards or a plant or a meal to someone who is in mourning or is recovering from illness.
  • If a colleague is going through a difficult time, let that person know you are thinking about them without being intrusive. Allow them to share whatever details they are comfortable revealing.
  • Acknowledge milestones through “Good and Welfare” announcements, either at meetings or through staff news bulletins.
  • Avoid gossip.

If you are struggling with workplace and/or personal issues and need more support, many organizations have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that offers confidential counseling to employees to help them through a difficult time. You can also check out local community support groups or request a brief consultation with a JCS mental health professional for some guidance.

JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland.  We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.