As employees start to return to work, now is a good time to start planning how your business is going to support those who have been bereaved during Lockdown. 
 
Identifying employees who have been bereaved can be ascertained by line managers during catch-up calls, or via a simple email survey. This is important, as you may not have a clear indication of those who have lost friends and family members outside of immediate family. For immediate family losses, we have guidelines for writing sympathy letters here
Grief in the Workplace

Not really 'business as usual' 

Employees who are grieving may be struggling to concentrate, they might be tired, listless, weary, or bereft. Their productivity levels may be significantly reduced at a cost to the business. The other concern is that they might be ‘keeping busy’ as a distraction from their feelings and throwing themselves into overdrive at work, which could lead to burnout
 
If your organisation doesn’t address grief, then you need to limit your expectations of your grieving colleagues by not assuming that they will be able to perform at the same level. All grief is unique, and people grieve in different ways. It could take months or years before an individual is able to perform at the level they once did. Addressing it now will help your colleague’s recovery, not to mention the way they feel about their working environment. 

What you can do to help your employees 

It is important that bereaved employees should be asked how they would like their situation communicated to others. 
Look out for non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication includes tone of voice as well as facial and body signals. 
Encourage employees to talk to each other by creating a safe space to do so. This is not the time to tell everyone to "stop socialising and get back to work". 
Acknowledge their loss, not just in a one-off conversation but make time to check in with them regularly
Don’t ask how they are, instead ask what’s been happening with them during Lockdown for instance. This will avoid the ‘I’m fine’ answer. No one likes to feel sad, so they do what most people are taught, they pretend that they’re ok. Open questions will allow them to feel able to talk more freely. 
Listen to their answer without interrupting them. 
Avoid the temptation to compare their experiences to your own. That’s not to say you can’t talk about your experience but say something like: “I can’t imagine how you feel. I know when my dad died, I felt…” 
Be present when they’re talking. When other people talk about their losses it can remind you of losses you’ve experienced. That’s normal. But it can take you out of the moment. 
If they cry, that’s ok. Reassure them that crying is a normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind (loss of a relative or friend, loss of routine, loss of a pet, loss of feeling safe…). If you feel tears in your eyes, that’s ok, too. You’re showing empathy. 
You don’t need to fix them; they just need to be heard. 
Grief in the Workplace

How can we help you? 

We can provide one-to-one or group support with our eight-part evidence-based Grief Recovery Programme (one-to-one can be provided online). 
We can train you to deliver the Grief Recovery Programme. 
If your organisation has specific needs, we can support you in developing a strategy for helping staff. 
You can purchase The Grief Recovery Handbook below. 
About the Author 
Carole Henderson
Carole Henderson is Managing Director and Senior Trainer at Grief Recovery Europe and was the first-ever Grief Recovery trainer in the UK. Since 2010 she has trained hundreds of Specialists from over 30 different countries to help others move beyond loss. She has been featured in The Guardian, the Times Educational Supplement (TES), Jeremy Vine, The Sun and numerous other publications.  

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