Typically when we hear the word grief we automatically associate this with dealing with the loss of a loved one, however, it can mean so much more than that.

Grief can also apply to traumatic events that can cause emotional damage or stress, such as; estrangement, financial loss, and many other traumatic events.

“Grief is not anything we’ve ever tackled well in the workplace. Businesses don’t usually recognise it, but it actually has a huge financial impact.” - David Kessle, Grief.com

When it comes to grief there is no timeline of recovery, and it is something that has continued to be a touchy subject within the business world.

Research conducted by Funeral Guide found that shockingly only 7% of bereaved employees stated that they had received enough time off after their bereavement. Meaning a huge 93% felt they returned to work too quickly, when returning to work their employers did not know how to help them ease back into work. This shows that a lot more needs to be done to help people dealing with grief in the workplace.

Grief is a completely natural and universal experience that unfortunately, everyone will experience at one point in their life. Reaction to loss is more often than not be overwhelming to manage and can affect someone in more than one aspect of their life. Someone suffering from grief can be impacted greatly which can cause a lack of concentration, reduced motivation, and overall change in personality - which will, in turn, have an effect on the way they work.

Most of us are also experiencing some aspect of grief after dealing with the effects of the global pandemic, the pandemic has seen many people be affected in the same way as they might from grief. So it is important that employers are aware of differences they may see in the workplace due to this. It is also just as important that employers have practice in place to be able to support employees who are dealing with grief.

So, how can you support your employees through grief? 

Offer Support 

The grieving process is complicated as it can take on different forms for everyone and there is no right way to grieve, this can make it difficult to manage as there is no straight line. An important part of supporting employees in terms of grief management would be to recognise their trauma and come up with the best solution and understand the support they need.

Psychologists have called the term ‘Grief Leadership’ and this is where a good leader can step up in times of sorrow to help people grasp reality and also promote an optimistic outlook toward a positive future. Instead of looking to fix problems, it is necessary for a good leader to show compassion and possibly share their own stories of grief or listen carefully to others - or understand if they don’t want to open up. This allows the workplace to become a place for relief as an employee may feel that they can release the burden of grief when they attend work - after having time off to recuperate. 

Make Their Return From Bereavement Easier

In some cases, employees may not need to take time off work, and may just need some extra support or a lesser workload. However, in the cases, that time off work is necessary for supporting their grieving process granting paid time off could help your employer have time to increase their mental health.

A study found 54% of employees have stated that they would have preferred to have more time off work or even a phased return to the workplace would have been beneficial. Managers don’t need to take on the role of ‘grief counsellor’ but learning and maintaining the skills that are needed to support their employees will create positive interactions and increased motivation. When an employee is returning from time off due to grief it is important that their wellbeing is discussed to ensure that they are fit to return to work, and discover if they need any help with work, or if they need time for phone calls etc It is also important to ensure that employees are aware of outreach programmes available and the resources that are available to them.

Create open communication

Creating a safe space where employees can share their problems and receive and offer support is vital, and so it is important to always check in and ensure that a comfortable working environment is in place. Grief is always difficult, but seeking and offering support can help make grieving at work less challenging. Making sure that your employees know that you are open to talking to you if they want, or that there are support resources available, is likely to create a better working environment for that person. This will benefit your business in return as employees who feel seen and supported are far more likely to be productive. 

The topic of grief management will be discussed at the Great British Workplace Wellbeing Awards sessions and will help employers learn about steps they can take when dealing with grief in the workplace and tools that can move them forward to become strong leaders. Sessions will take place on March 2nd 2022.

13:50-14:30 - Grief Management; compassion before KPI’s 

Speakers include:

Carolyn Hobdey | Life Coach, Speaker, HR Professional

Daniel Callaghan | Employer Branding Manager, Capital One

Faith Holloway | Compassionate Employers Programme Lead, Hospice UK

Sam Langford | Health and Wellbeing Advisor, B Braun

Grief management session wellbeing