How employers can better support grieving employees

CEO says companies are ill-prepared to reintegrate and understand grieving employees

How employers can better support grieving employees

Grief can heavily impact both employees and the workplace if mishandled, an article by said.

As grief can cause temporary neurochemical changes in one’s brain as well as physical issues like sudden body aches and illness, a grieving employee’s performance in their work may be negatively affected. This may eventually affect the workplace as it can mean extensive costs to organizations. 

“I struggled with brain fog, focus, and forgetfulness. Numbers swam across spreadsheets. In meetings, I’d realize minutes later I hadn’t comprehended anything that had been said,” Mindy Corporon, co-CEO and co-founder of Workplace Healing, said in the article, detailing her experience back at work following the loss of her son and father.

“My colleagues and employees cared, but conversations often felt awkward and uncomfortable. I had to train myself and others how to talk with me,” she continued.

Companies lose around $113.7 billion because of unproductivity, errors in work outputs, and employee turnover every year which are mostly caused by the management’s mishandling of grieving employees. Almost 60% of employees who feel as if they are not supported by their employers in their grief often consider leaving their jobs.

In a study published by the National Library of Medicine, it was found that 2 out of every 3 Canadian organizations have more than one employee that took bereavement leave in 2020 with 3.2% of employees typically taking an average of 2.5 days off from work.

The study further found that there is a need for organizations to improve their approaches when it comes to preparing for bereavement leaves and assisting grieving employees returning to work.

Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs) are typically utilized by workplaces in order to support the wellbeing of employees going through the process of grief. However, this benefit was not designed to give employers resources that can aid them in handling a grieving employee.

This may lead employers to be unprepared for the impact grief may cause on their employees and cause communication mistakes, critical judgement errors, among other problems that lead to absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover rates.

What employers can do

While employers usually rely on corporate policies that are driven by data — which barely holds room for empathy — a balance between head and heart-based support is what an employee going through a difficult time would need to efficiently go back to their work life.   

An article by MITSloan said that employers can help grieving employees through seeking the support of grief-informed coaches and clinicians when it comes to dealing with grief. Employers can also offer education to their employees about the impact of grief, creating creative accommodations and bereavement policies to those going through the common responses to grief, and providing ongoing grief-related support.

Allowing employees to be supported during such a difficult time not only reduces their stress but also allows them to trust and respect their employers, which can strengthen long-term engagement, productivity, and retention.