Death is an inevitable part of life, and it is only a matter of time before one of your employees is impacted by the tragic loss of a loved one. The lines between grief management and handling your duties as an employer are murky, and if you fail to approach the situation properly, you could make matters much worse. Here are a few helpful ways that can help you better support your bereaved employee.
While business operations must continue to flow, rushing your bereaved employee back to work can come off as insensitive. While a paid three-day leave is standard, this short amount of time often proves to be an insufficient solution for the grieving process. In severe cases and as an act of courtesy, try extending the leave for a few more days.
Along with a bit more time to adjust to life’s changes, flexible scheduling could also help them get back into the swing of things. If they have lost a spouse, this gives them time to adapt to a new routine. This is especially important for them if they have school-aged kids at home. If possible, offer part-time hours or grant the option for remote work.
Attending grief counseling is a highly effective way to cope with loss. A specialized therapist can help the griever deal with the tough range of emotions related to death, identify strategies to overcome this tough time, find the strength to ease back into their daily routines, and express the heaviness that may be too much for coworkers, friends, and family to bear. Because it may be difficult for someone to accept, acknowledge, or admit that they are in need of help, an employer should encourage this step by providing a source and the financial backing to make matters more agreeable.
Cut Them a Break
Keeping the emotions at the door is an unspoken standard at all workplaces, but, for the bereaved, any small occurrence can understandably trigger an emotional reaction. A grieving employee may be forgetful, less productive, make more mistakes than usual, have trouble focusing, be low on energy, and appear unhappy to be at work. As an employer, it is your job to be as understanding as possible and lighten the load. Try not to become disappointed with their shortcomings, and enlist other employees to lend a helping hand.
The truth is, when it comes to consoling the bereaved, what you may think will make things better can often do the opposite. However, avoidance is one of the most harmful tactics as it can make the affected feel as if you lack empathy. On the other hand, the employee may isolate themselves, which can be equally detrimental.
Don’t be alarmed if the bereaved begins to distance themselves from others. They may avoid groups, speak less, and spend their lunches alone. Continuing on this path can lead to loneliness and long-lasting depression. Members of the workplace can show their support by having group lunches, hosting events in and outside of work, sending light-hearted emails throughout the day, and checking up on the griever through general conversation.
Card and Gifts
When comforting the bereaved, avoid saying things like, “They are in a better place” or “I understand how you feel”. Instead, you should aim for more appropriate messages for the situation, such as “I am so sorry for your loss” or “I can’t imagine how you feel, but I am here for you”. They may also appreciate thoughtful cards, flowers, candles, fruit baskets, and other gifts of sentimental value.
Funding a funeral is expensive, so donations can be a huge help. Whether just a few dollars or a gift card to cover other expenses, any little bit of financial assistance can ease their troubles. Just be sure to check with the HR department before giving offerings as some policies rule against monetary exchanges that exceed $100, while others may be more lenient. Bereavement pay may be the safest route to go.
Ask Them What They Need
Everyone grieves differently, and while some people may appreciate the extra attention during this trying period, others may prefer to return to business as normal. The only way to be clear on their needs is to ask them directly. Try not to be pushy, and allow for enough time to answer the question as it is quite possible that they have yet to consider their needs. Reassure them that your door will remain open for additional support.
Maintaining a positive, productive work environment while offering your sincerest condolences can present a rocky road. There is no set time frame on grief, and there is no way to completely counter its impact. However, you can choose actions to remind your employees that you value their wellbeing and are there to support them during their time of need.