6 Ways Employers Can Do a Better Job Supporting Grieving Employees

Life happens to everyone, regardless of their job title. Whether they’re a company executive or a part-time employee, traumatizing events like the death of a loved one can severely impact a person’s work performance. How can employers make life easier for staff members dealing with grief?

Most companies address grieving in their employee handbook and consider that sufficient. However, organizations are about people. Bosses who show their subordinates they care enjoy higher levels of company loyalty as well as improved performance when the personal storm ends. Here’s how employers can support the mental health needs of their staff dealing with somber life events and associated grief.

1. Give Them the Time They Need

Everyone processes grief in their own time. No timetable dictates how long it may take someone to move past the death of someone they love. Some people return to the office nearly immediately, as work distracts them or otherwise helps them process their emotions. Others need time alone to mourn and work through their feelings.

Losing a key player for a month or more impacts business operations, but understand that those grieving may have a spotty attendance record for a while. As much as possible, allow these absences without penalizing someone who’s already suffering.

2. Get the Message Out for Them

One of the toughest parts of dealing with grief involves telling others about a tragic loss while their emotions are raw. While some employees may share close friendships with those they work with, others may struggle with how to let their cubicle mates know. Take this burden off their shoulders. Employers can briefly mention the loss in a staff meeting or send out an email to those who work closest with that employee.

3. Have a Grief Policy, but Be Flexible

Outlining grieving policies in a handbook helps employers avoid lawsuits, but failing to deal with the bereaved in a human way makes managers seem heartless. Bosses can send flowers unless asked not to, and can offer to talk one-on-one with the employee when they return. Offer sincere condolences and let them know what accommodations exist to make this difficult time easier.

Think outside the outlined policy when making these accommodations. For example, some staff members may find telecommuting for a time easier, so if they don’t work in a role that requires facetime, allow them to do so. Others find that returning to work on a part-time basis while they cope with their sorrow helps them to heal.

4. Provide a Safe Space When Theyre Overwhelmed

Sometimes, a grieving employee starts the workday seemingly fine until something triggers them. Sobbing when everyone in nearby cubicles can hear embarrasses many, and some may not have a vehicle to sit in when sadness overwhelms them. Offer employees a safe place where they can mourn when it gets too much to bear. A private office space or empty conference room with a door can double as a mourning place.

5. Offer Therapy and Resources

Depending on the type of health coverage an employee has, if any, they may want to reach out to a professional for help but lack the means to do so. If budget allows, offer to pay for therapy appointments to help staff process the loss.

Many employers have employee assistance plans in place, but some staff members may hesitate to use them, thinking the policies only apply to those struggling with diagnosed mental health issues or fearing using such services show weakness. Let them know these programs are meant for times such as bereavement, too. Don’t coerce an employee to see the office shrink if they decline, but do remind them gently these resources exist.

6. Demonstrate Empathy

Take a moment to view the situation through the employees’ eyes. Some business owners and managers have experienced similar losses. Others may not have lost anyone themselves, but they still can demonstrate empathy and compassion.

Some in charge may not know what to do or say with a grieving employee—and that’s perfectly natural. A listening ear can mean the world to someone in pain, so set a time to talk if they express the need. Be sure to give them full attention.

A Kinder Workplace for the Bereaved

The way a business owner or manager handles an employee when they’re grieving can bolster workplace morale or lower it. Within reason, allowing staff the time and tools they need to process a difficult loss demonstrates strong leadership. Employees are the lifeblood of any organization—but they’re human beings, too.

Related at Care2

37 comments

Gino C
Gino C6 days ago

Thanks

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Dennis H
Dennis H11 days ago

Thanks

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heather g
heather g11 days ago

I worked in a very large multinational for 19 years. The staff made sure we were all treated compassionately during a family crisis, etc.

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Peter B
Peter B12 days ago

thank you

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Kathy K
Kathy K13 days ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M13 days ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M13 days ago

Thanks.

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Mike R
Mike R13 days ago

Thanks

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W13 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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sandy Gardner
sandy G13 days ago

I don't see our corporate over-lords giving us anything, ever. They merely see us as a part of their workforce....like a piece of machinery.

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