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How to Support your Employees through Grief and Loss

Wellness | 5-minute read

Posted on: Tuesday December 05, 2023

by Drishti Rachh, Marketing Executive B2B

Experiencing loss, grief and bereavement is a common problem that may significantly impact individuals at some point, at work. Consequently, while they go through this difficult time it could have a real impact on their performance and the business at large. Statistics reveal that 56% of employees would consider leaving their jobs if their employer failed to provide proper support if someone close to them died. In this article, we explore ways to support employees through grief and loss, emphasising the significance of acknowledging the emotional challenges and fostering a compassionate workplace culture.

Understanding Grief

Grief is a complex set of emotions that individuals may experience after the death of a close person. However, these emotions are rarely openly discussed in the workplace, where employee engagement and wellness are often overlooked in the context of grief.

Challenges of Grieving at Work

Returning to work after a loss poses a considerable challenge for grieving employees. It is not only a personal struggle to regain a sense of normalcy but also a challenge for colleagues and managers to provide appropriate support. Many organisations fail to recognise the impact of grief on employee engagement and overall wellbeing.

Supporting Employees Through Grief

1. Acknowledge the Loss

Effective communication is crucial during difficult periods. As a manager, acknowledging the loss without making demands is essential. Privately expressing sincere condolences helps convey empathy and solidarity, preventing employees from feeling isolated during their grieving process.

2. Be Empathetic

Grieving employees may undergo a range of emotions, impacting office morale. Embracing these emotional ups and downs and allowing team members to express their feelings is vital. A manager's empathy can foster a supportive environment for the grieving employee.

3. Invite Open Conversation

Encourage open discussions about bereavement, allowing employees to share their feelings. Asking questions such as “How can I support you through this?” will help in planning and managing workloads, potentially adjusting deadlines or redistributing tasks to alleviate stress during bereavement leave.

4. Offer a Bereavement Leave Policy

Implementing a clear bereavement leave policy provides guidance for both managers and employees, ensuring expectations are understood. This policy empowers managers to communicate effectively with bereaved employees and provides certainty for individuals facing loss.

5. Manage Workload

Managers should not assume that returning employees have fully overcome grief. Creating a supportive office culture involves making reasonable accommodations, such as flexible hours or time for personal reflection, without penalizing employees for expressing their humanity.

6. Provide Professional Support

Introduce Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Counselling to offer confidential psychological assistance for personal or work-related issues like grief. Sharing information about this service or arranging for an EAP Psychologist to discuss it onsite can be beneficial.

AtaLoss.org is a charity working alongside hundreds of bereavement services to offer those who are grieving, signposting to appropriate and local support.

The charity is now working with companies to host workshops and employee webinars where managers and bereaved employees can learn more about grief. This is vital as 10% of people in the workplace are grieving the death of someone at any one time. Bereavement impacts widely on the emotional, physical, spiritual and psychological wellbeing of a person, and in turn their mental health and capacity to work. Mental health is an increasingly important topic for companies and offering appropriate bereavement support from a position of understanding may prove to be an effective preventative measure. AlaLoss.org can help not only employees but HR representatives to understand the journey of grief and how employees may react. When companies understand the effects of grief they can re-evaluate what is on offer and how best to manage the bridge of returning to work. Simply knowing what to say and what not to say can also make a real difference to the employees' view of their company as well as their confidence in returning to work and impress those watching on.

By acknowledging grief, fostering empathy, and implementing practical policies, your business can create a workplace culture that supports employees during challenging times. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and customisation may be required to meet individual needs.

If you need to simplify your EAP practices and support your employees, please reach out to one of our specialists and contact us here: https://www.hapi.co.uk/discoverhapi

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