Bereavement and grief can impact your employees significantly. Not just in terms of attendance but their mental health and overall performance.
It is important to provide some practical advice to managers who deal with affected employees and show that they can do more than the limitations of statutory guidelines and company policy.
Having the right support in place will help your employees feel valued, reduce unnecessary stress and help working relationships and keep the workplace productive.
BE HUMAN ABOUT IT
One of the most difficult parts of managing people is having to support an employee who has lost a loved one. Most people struggle with knowing what the right things is to say to someone who is in emotional pain in addition to whatever is included in the company policy with regard to time off and pay. It is the more human side which can sometimes be forgotten in the day to day running of the business.
When an individual receives such news at work, they should be handled with care and allowed time for reflection or if applicable, to go home (if they aren't currently home working make sure they can get home safely and won’t be alone if you are concerned about them).
If they contact you by phone to tell you about their loss, ensure that condolences are offered and that they feel supported and not under any pressure. Let them know the company is there for them, offering details of any Employee Assistance Programme or other services that are in place, if appropriate.
Emotional intelligence is key, do not bombard people with too much information and perhaps follow up in a letter (as opposed to work email) containing further support / details of your policy.
If the employee is eligible to take compassionate leave, let them have any details. Back in the workplace, it is important to consider the following:
How much information to tell colleagues – this should be agreed with the individual. It is their business to divulge details if they want to on their return.
Decide how to distribute the individual’s tasks until they return to work – bear in mind they could be back the next day or the next week so when they check in, you
can ensure that work has not built up and that others are not overloaded
What reasonable adjustments can be made on their return, i.e. flexible working, temporarily working from home, changing some tasks
The important thing to remember is that everyone is different. Some people may just want to ‘get on with it’ and return to work as normal without being treated any differently. Others will need more support and will want to talk about it.
GRIEF CAN CONTINUE TO MANIFEST IN MANY WAYS
Management support does not end when the employee returns to work. Easing workloads and expectations can give the employee space to heal. It also requires ongoing dialogue with the employee and team members to assess and address specific needs.
It is important to look out for signs of mental health issues stemming from grief, including depression or anxiety. For example:
Lack of focus or productivity
Behavioural change (negative)
Declining work performance
It is beneficial as a manager to have training related to bereavement, grief and any related policies. Compassion and support are needed in organisations to enable employers to cultivate an open and supportive environment where people feel they can talk not only about bereavement, but other sensitive issues.
Claire McCartney – Senior Resourcing and Inclusion Adviser, CIPD states: “It’s hard for employers to act if they don’t know that someone has been bereaved. So it is important to create an open, trusting culture where people will feel comfortable disclosing their bereavement because they know the organisation will respond empathetically and supportively.”
ACAS has some really helpful information on their website which provides practical advice on how your organisation can support an employee in this situation.
Mast People Support can help you look at the culture you have and improve it so that you are ready for situations like this. If you wish to discuss what this would entail, please get in contact.