The Effect Divorcing Employees Can Have on Your Business

By: Karen Chellew
Last Update: March 27, 2018

Divorce can and will affect someone's productivity at work. Learn how to support your divorcing employees, helping them feel empowered and confident in the workplace as they go through a divorce. 

Connie Williams, a teacher with seven years' tenure in a job she loves, is stunned. As she is climbing into her car, after work, she is handed divorce papers by a complete stranger. Her mom is in the hospital, she has to prepare lesson plans for the next day, and her three children are waiting at a friend's house to be picked up.

Like most workers today, Connie wonders if she has the time and energy to keep her life balanced with her job, household, family, and personal concerns. Now she needs to come to terms with the paralyzing effect of divorce and doesn't know how she is going to manage all of the changes that it will bring.

What will Connie face in the coming months? Besides working through the emotional pain of losing a marriage, Connie will have to determine what steps to take next to prepare for the often confusing and complicated divorce process. What kind of divorce does she face – contested or uncontested? What kind of representation will she need? What will she need in terms of support for her and her children? Will she have to pay alimony? Will she have to move? Will her husband be entitled to a portion of her pension? Will she be entitled to a portion of her husband’s pension? How will her children's needs be met? What kind of child support will she need or be entitled to? Who will provide health coverage for the children? The list goes on and on, and even if Connie seeks an attorney, she will not get the answers to these questions right away. She will learn the answers over time, and after spending thousands of dollars.

All of the emotions and questions Connie faces in the midst of divorce will leave her feeling lost, alone, confused and in the dark. She’s right to worry, it will all affect her life at work as she struggles to find the support and information she needs.

Divorce has become a common life transition. With nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, the percentage of people experiencing this crisis at any given time is so large that every business organization can expect to feel the impact. As Connie comes to realize how much divorce will affect her life, she echoes the fears of so many employees in her situation, “What am I going to do about work?” The workplace is an anchor in so many ways from a source of livelihood to a social and professional network to a platform for self-esteem. How Connie’s employer reacts to her crisis can be as vital to her future as her personal response. An employer’s proactive and supportive response can make a huge difference in the well-being of the business, too.

How does divorce impact the business world?

Studies reveal that productivity and overall company morale can decrease as workers deal with the effects of divorce. On a classic rating scale of stressful life events, divorce consistently ranks No. 2 – second only to the death of a spouse. The employee’s financial worries, time away from work, and emotional stress while on the job will naturally affect their productivity, even for those workers whose jobs are their emotional haven.

Researchers estimate that every ten divorcing employees cost a company more than $83,000 a year in lost productivity. This assumes a drop in worker performance of between 50% to 75% as well as time off spent dealing with legal, financial, and psychological issues related to divorce. It also includes an estimated loss of supervisor productivity as a result of time spent dealing with issues of performance and productivity for employees affected by divorce.

(Source Note: "The Cost of Divorce to Employers", by Guest Columnist Rosemary FrankNashville Business Journal. Based on an average wage of $19.50/hr)  

Loss of productivity and decreased performance are easier to measure than other more complex problems that divorce can present for employers. Company morale is important and can suffer when a considerable number of workers are in a state of personal crisis and/or sharing their problems with others. The sense of being alone and unsupported is one of the major side effects of the divorce process. For many employees, the workplace community feels like a natural source of help in dealing with feelings of isolation and victimization. Is the workplace prepared to deal with these needs while maintaining its overall business goals?

What Businesses Can Do to Help Divorcing Employees 

Companies are usually equipped to help with life transitions that affect an employee’s productivity at work like a death in the family or an unexpected health crisis. A more common transition in an employee’s life, like divorce, is often overlooked. Divorce, too, is a personal event that has significant impact on employers and requires specific information and support. Strong morale, good employee retention, and an overall positive company culture are desirable benefits that come from helping employees feel valued, respected, and cared for. A business can serve all of its objectives and demonstrate for workers that problems can be solved effectively and compassionately, with plans and programs for helping employees weather divorce.

At Divorce U Solutions, we see clients each day who face this life-transition and the effects it has on their emotional well-being, their health, and often, their jobs. What we hear over and over again from our clients during the initial consultation is “If I only knew what to expect and what steps to take, I would be okay, but I can’t seem to find this information anywhere!” As two veterans of divorce ourselves, we know how they feel. This lack of information during our divorces inspired us to create a much-needed online course to help people maintain their productivity at work while receiving support, guidance, and the tools necessary to navigate this difficult life transition with confidence and hope.

We know from experience that an informed employee is an empowered and productive employee, and we wanted to make a positive change in the way people proceed through divorce. If they have vital information, key steps, and a plan to prepare for every stage of divorce, people can, not only, survive divorce, they can actually thrive both at home and at work.

From employees like Connie Williams who were blindsided by divorce, to those who want to leave an unhappy marriage but don’t know where to turn for guidance, all divorcing workers will have an impact on their employers. Whether divorcing employees get the help they need at work will depend on a company’s foresight and understanding of today’s social realities. When a divorcing worker feels that their employer cares, they become empowered and feel more confident as they learn to deal with the emotional hurdles that divorce presents.

Learning is an important aspect of the divorce process as new challenges regarding finance, housing, childcare, child custody, legal status, health, and employment enter the picture at every turn. By offering divorce-specific programs that address employees’ needs for information and support, a business can boost morale and loyalty, restore productivity, and improve performance. Employees want to thrive and contribute. Companies can help them do that, despite divorce, by providing effective programs that are targeted for their needs. When employees are informed and feel supported, they can return to a state of balance and contribute to the positive community of human resources a company must have to succeed.

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