If Benjamin Franklin is to be believed there are two certainties in life, and one of them is death. Nobody wants to talk about death, especially in the workplace, but it is a subject that needs addressing.
It is entirely possible to go your whole career without a coworker dying, but next to impossible to go your entire career without the loved one of a coworker dying. This fact is why creating a bereavement leave policy is necessary for every organization.
Bereavement is the period of grief and mourning after a death. In addition to grief, employees may suffer a lack of concentration, depression, anxiety, tiredness, and increased anger.
Establishing Grief Support
A survey from the Grief Recovery Institute concluded that bereavement costs U.S. businesses $37.6 billion annually. Creating grief support, or bereavement policies are necessary for both the employer and employee.
Your company must define what these policies are, and ensure that employees know them. Establishing grief support helps both the affected individual through their bereavement and colleagues wondering what they can do to help their coworker.
An established bereavement policy can help an employee’s physical and mental health. This improved health can also aid your business by avoiding physical injuries and poor decision-making that occur due to grief.
The Grief Recovery Institute reports that 85 percent of management-level employees described their decision-making as “very poor” to “fair” in the weeks or months following a grief incident that affected them.
Over 90 percent of those in physical jobs reported a much higher incidence of physical injuries, due to reduced concentration, in the weeks or months following the grief incident. Grief support can help to eliminate these types of on-the-job mistakes.
Ways to Support Bereaved Employees
There are many ways that your business can support a bereaved employee. Your company should clearly define each of these options and include them in the company’s grief support and bereavement policies.
The first step in helping an employee through the bereavement process should be to communicate with the affected employee. As you talk with this employee, you should:
— Offer your condolences
— Emphasize they’re not expected at work immediately
— Ask them how they would like to stay in contact (phone, email, text, etc.)
— Inquire if there is any information you can pass along to coworkers
— Ask if the employee wishes to be contacted by colleagues
Finally, you then need to communicate any information you know and can relate, to the rest of your staff.
Define Bereavement Leave
Ensure that the affected employee understands how much bereavement leave they are allowed. Hopefully, this is done before the employee needs it; however, if it is not then it needs to be done carefully and with grace during your contact with the bereaved employee.
Additionally, create a process for employees to donate their paid time off to bereaved employees if one is not already in place. This policy allows employees to help a bereaved coworker by donating their extra PTO.
Bereavement leave is an important employee benefit, that many workers, unfortunately, do not think about until they need it. Your business can help employees, when they need it the most, by creating a detailed and comprehensive bereavement leave policy.
A fully realized policy removes the uncertainty and stress of missing work while you grieve. It is this kind of thoughtfulness and understanding that elevates employers in the minds of their staff.
Train Employees on What to Do
Your business should train both managers and coworkers on how to help an employee through their bereavement. This training should include:
— Knowing grief and the stages of grief
— Helping employees know what to say and what not to say
— Making work a safe space
— Recognizing when the affected employee is struggling
— How to be patient and understanding with a bereaved employee
Accommodate the Bereaved Employee
You should strongly consider offering different accommodations to employees to help them through the bereavement process. One accommodation may be to provide the bereaved employee flexible hours.
There may be certain times of the day during which an employee feels more grief than others. Offering a flexible work schedule allows the employee to work around these times.
Another accommodation may be to create a small serenity room, where the employee can go to relax when needed. An additional accommodation is to offer counseling or remind the employee to use the company employee assistance program (EAP).
Additionally, if your company has an EAP, encourage the bereaved employee to utilize it. EAPs offer free and confidential assessments, counseling, and referrals.
To aid your employees through the bereavement process it is important that you: establish grief support, communicate, define bereavement leave, train employees on what to do, and accommodate the bereaved individual.
Employees are the number one business expense of almost every company. It is important to invest in your employees to get the most out of them.
Ultimately, creating proper grief support and bereavement leave policies is the right thing to do both ethically and financially.