Israel-Hamas War & Mental Health: Insights from our Employer Roundtable
The outbreak of the Israel-Hamas War and the ongoing humanitarian crisis have led many to feel angry, hopeless and alone. Employees fear for the safety of themselves and their loved ones, and both antisemitic and anti-Arab discrimination are at the forefront of many peoples’ minds. This has presented employers with new challenges in supporting the mental health of their workers.
Last week, we held an employer roundtable with One Mind at Work and Interfaith America, bringing together business leaders to discuss how their employees have been affected by the events in Israel and Gaza. We hope the key insights we've summarized below, paired with our latest employer guide, can help you support your colleagues during this difficult time.
Here are four key takeaways from the event:
1. Acknowledge the conflict and lead with empathy and compassion.
Business leaders report that while employees may be feeling stress, sadness or anxiety, they may also be concerned about mentioning these feelings in the workplace out of concern for saying the “wrong” thing. These feelings are often heightened for Jewish and Arab employees, who are likely to have a more direct connection to the crisis.
Whether it takes the form of a message from your CEO or a company-wide staff meeting, it’s important to acknowledge the conflict, commit to a company culture of compassion and mutual respect, and emphasize the importance of an inclusive, supportive workplace free from discrimination.
2. Create safe spaces to help prevent isolation.
One of the best things employers can do is offer safe, welcoming spaces for workers with similar backgrounds or identities to listen and support one another. Employee resource groups, mental health ally groups or facilitated conversations with crisis counselors can give people a place to open up and share their experiences and feelings. These groups can also help identify workers in distress and connect them to resources, like your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or other counseling or crisis services.
Employers might also consider sharing information about local groups or organizations that foster community, engage in respectful civic action or organize around humanitarian efforts.
3. Promote safe social media practices and media literacy.
As the situation unfolds, many want to stay informed. But this constant influx of news can be detrimental to employee mental health if it’s not consumed safely. Employers can help promote safe social media practices and share resources with employees so they can learn to engage with the news without sacrificing their mental health.
Leaders echoed some key points:
- With so much misinformation on social media, employers have become a trusted source of information. This makes it even more important for any information shared to be carefully fact-checked and vetted.
- Resources like the News Literacy Project’s guide to Navigating Misinformation in the Israel-Hamas War and CNN’s tips on How to Protect Your Mental Health while Keeping Tabs on the Israel-Hamas War should be shared with employees to promote media literacy and social media hygiene. These resources can help workers struggling to verify information or limit their intake of upsetting content online.
4. Reinforce physical and emotional safety.
Employees deserve to feel safe and protected in the workplace. Encouraging workplace conversations about real-world issues can strengthen your company’s culture and help workers feel supported, but it’s important to begin by setting clear ground rules for civil discourse at work.
Remind managers to “check-in” with their teams and to be aware that the conflict may be impacting employees. If they are aware of employees who are experiencing distress, remind managers of the importance of being flexible with workloads and deadlines and to ask their team members about any additional support needs. Especially for employees with friends or family in the affected area, recognize their need to put personal or family needs first, and provide them with the support to do so.
Our latest resource offers five steps to help you support the mental health and wellbeing of employees affected by the crisis in the Middle East.
- American Psychological Association: Inclusive Language Guidelines
- American Academy of Pediatrics: How to Talk with Your Child about the Israel-Gaza War
- Interfaith America: Interfaith at Work
- 988 Suicide & Crisis Hotline: 5 Facts about 988