Supporting Employees through Empty Nest Syndrome: Tips for Employers

CoachHub · 12 July 2023 · 6 min read

Human beings are social creatures. Some may argue that the main reason we exist is to form meaningful connections with other people. These connections or relationships serve different purposes depending on the context, and there is always a sense of loss when those relationships change or disappear. In order to avoid experiencing this feeling of loss, many people try to remain close to their loved ones in spite of difficulties.

People process loss differently and some can handle separation better than others. One phenomenon experienced by many parents is called the empty nest syndrome.

Baby birds are bound to leave their nests and fly out on their own. This is just the same as children growing up and leaving their parents’ homes to look after themselves. This is why the phenomenon is known as the empty nest syndrome.

Most parents are aware that their kids have to leave eventually, but it doesn’t mitigate the feeling of grief that they experience when their children leave their homes. In many cases, empty nest syndrome can be severe enough to affect the overall wellbeing of the parent or guardian.

The thing is, living alone after caring for children for a long time doesn’t always have to be a bad thing as it creates an avenue for the parent to focus on themselves and their personal lives.

However, it is understandable that many parents may not see it this way in the beginning. This is why it is imperative for employers to offer support to employees who may be experiencing the empty nest syndrome.

The workplace serves as another opportunity for people to make connections with other human beings, even if those connections never go beyond workplace interactions. Showing employees that their emotional health is as valuable as their physical presence goes a long way in assuaging feelings of abandonment and loneliness they may be experiencing.

In this article, we take an observatory lens to the empty nest syndrome and how employers can make the process easier for their employees.

Understanding Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty nest syndrome is defined as the grief and feeling of loss experienced by parents when their children leave the home to be on their own. Although this syndrome was formerly associated with women alone because they are often the primary caregivers, recent studies have shown that men can also experience the empty nest syndrome.

The grief here is different from the grief of the death of a loved one. The grief from empty nest syndrome is not always taken seriously because the act of a child moving out of the parent’s home is regarded as a normal event in the developmental process. While they know that it is normal for their kids to move out of the house, it is not always easy to deal with the loss.

Sometimes, the empty nest syndrome leads parents to seek out other sources of support and companionship. This is why it is important for co-workers and employers to remain empathetic through the process.

Common symptoms and signs to look out for

Empty nest syndrome manifests in different ways in the parents, however, there are some common signs and symptoms that present themselves as time passes.

  1. Absence of purpose: For the longest time, a lot of parents devote their time and attention to their children. When the kids move out, they may feel like they don’t have a lot to look forward to anymore. This presents as a loss of purpose that makes it difficult for them to focus.
  2. Frustration: Parenting often involves a lot of control. When children move out, the absence of that control causes a bit of frustration in parents.
  3. Emotional distress: It may be difficult to cope with the new emotional strain of living alone. This leads to increased levels of emotional distress in parents.
  4. Marital stress: Many marriages start to suffer after their children move out. This is because many parents put their relationships aside to focus on their children. Once the children move out, it can be difficult to just live as a couple and they may have to put in extra work to keep the relationship alive.
  5. Anxiety: It is normal for parents to experience anxiety over the wellbeing of their children when they are absent. For parents experiencing empty nest syndrome, the anxiety can be very severe.

With all these things affecting the emotional health of a parent, the work performance begins to dwindle. It is not easy to cope with emotional stress and still put in their best at their jobs. If the issues are not checked, it becomes more difficult to do well at work, leading to lower levels of productivity.

empty nest syndrome

Why Employers Should Care

Not all parents are susceptible to empty nest syndrome, some are just more susceptible than others, but this is not inherently a bad thing. It only becomes a problem when it starts to affect other aspects of the person’s life, including work.

Loss of any kind makes it harder for a person to focus on other important aspects of their lives. Through no fault of theirs, work may start to appear less important and they begin to put in less effort than before.

In some cases, anxiety and depression set in, and if there’s anything we know about mental health, it’s that the state of your mental health makes it difficult to focus on life.

This is why employers need to care about the emotional and psychological wellbeing of their employees. It would be difficult to get employees to devote their attention and time to work when they are not in the right emotional state to do so.

Showing that you support and care for workers as an employer builds more loyalty and trust, both of which are essential to ensure that the workplace environment stays healthy. It would be hard for the company to achieve its goals if employees are not fully onboard, and they cannot be fully onboard if their mental health suffers.

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Tips for Employers to Support Employees with Empty Nest Syndrome

There are several ways employers can provide this support to their employees.

  1. Employers need to devote more time towards encouraging open communication between them and employees. This is the best way for the employers to figure out initiatives that will be appreciated by workers.
  2. More workplaces can devote resources towards providing mental health resources and support for employees. They could encourage workers to seek out the help of mental health professionals.
  3. Employers can make the lives of employees easier by offering flexible work arrangements. This means that workers have more time to focus on their personal lives. When this happens, they are able to get the help they need to take care of themselves.
  4. Employers can show that they care by providing opportunities for professional development and growth. This way, they can devote their time towards career advancement opportunities that will make it easier for them to focus on their jobs instead of their problems.
  5. Employers should encourage employees to have a better work-life balance. This way, employees can devote more time to their personal fulfilment.
  6. More workplaces need to prioritise coaching and mentoring for employees.

The Role of Digital Coaching in Supporting Employees with Empty Nest Syndrome

Sometimes, people need a little bit of help to get through difficult circumstances. Digital coaching provides that help and assistance to working parents who battle with empty nest syndrome. Parents can get the resources that will assist them to confront and handle their feelings, while developing healthier coping mechanisms.

This means that employees can now sort out the feelings of grief, loneliness or loss that come up once their kids leave.

Conclusion

Loss is always hard to accept and come to terms with. Having children move out when they lived their entire lives with you can be difficult to handle. But at the end of the day, one thing that helps is the awareness that you are not alone.

Many parents worldwide experience empty nest syndrome. This is why parents are encouraged to speak out about their feelings so they can get the help they need.

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Samuel Olawole
Samuel Olawole is a freelance copywriter and content writer who specialises in creating exciting content across a wide range of topics and industries. When he’s not writing, you can find him travelling or listening to good music.

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