Showing support for a co-worker or a direct report who has chosen to serve in the U.S. National Guard or Reserves
People join the National Guard and Reserves for a variety of reasons. Participating in the Guard and Reserve enables them to continue with their civilian jobs while still serving our country and being part of something greater than themselves. Their success and ability to focus on their varied missions depend on the support they receive not just from their families but also from their employer, direct supervisor, and fellow co-workers.
King County is truly proud to have about 100 employees who choose to serve in the National Guard and Reserves. In fact, King County was bestowed the “Above and Beyond Award” in 2018 by the U.S. Department of Defense, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, for the generous benefits we offer those who serve. However, benefits are just one piece; the support each of us chooses to provide to our fellow co-workers who serve can be very impactful and meaningful.
Below are some ways in which we can show our support to those who serve:
- Plan and prepare: The supervisor and coworkers can work with the service member to prepare for both planned and unplanned emergency (e.g. natural disaster) mobilizations and deployments, and create a plan of action in advance to make sure staff are trained and know how to step in to handle the work.
- Meet with service member: The supervisor, HR and co-workers are encouraged to meet with the Reserve or National Guard employee and ask, “How can I support you?” and if you are comfortable, ask, “Is there some way in which I can support your family?” Unplanned deployments and mobilizations can be hard on the employee’s family. Offering to check in with the family or offer help in some other way can go a long way in alleviating some of the service member’s stress.
- Stay in touch: Keep your service member “in the loop” with what is going on at work. Information to share might include positive changes in the workplace (e.g., new projects or hires) and social information (e.g., a coworker had a baby, a new walking group started). You can do this with monthly letters and occasional e-mails. Staying in touch helps enhance the service member’s morale and feel remembered, especially if they are away during holidays. You might even consider sending a “care package” when they are deployed.
- Develop a reintegration plan: When it is time for the employee to return, the supervisor can discuss with the service member:
- What the employee can expect (e.g., what tasks have been delegated to others, if they will be working in the same or a different role, if and how procedures have changed).
- What the employee would like or find helpful in returning to work (e.g., written instructions for new procedures, additional meetings with management to get caught up on what they have missed, flexible work schedule).
- How the employee would like to be treated regarding their deployment (e.g., would they prefer not to discuss it, would they like to share what they did while they were away).
- What training, re-training, or accommodations need to be put into place.
Given this list, let us each now consider ways in which we can recognize and support our co-workers who choose to serve.