5 Tips for Managing Grief and Loss in the Workplace
Posted on 16th September 2021 at 12:01
There are over 40 life losses that can result in the symptoms of grief, including a loss of feeling safe, which might apply to staff returning to work.
If you’re a business owner, manager, or HR professional, you may find some staff are reluctant to return to the office after working from home.
When employers understand and acknowledge the impact grief can have on their teams, employee mood, satisfaction, productivity and retention improve.
While some people might have enjoyed the convenience of working from home, others will have very different reasons for not wanting to return, feeling increasingly anxious, overwhelmed, or bereft as a result of their pandemic experiences.
Grief can be triggered by many things
The emotional reaction to the loss and change brought about by the pandemic continues to be felt. However, it's not only bereavements employers need to be sensitive to. The emotional impact of grief can be felt as a result of various COVID related loss events, including:
Loss of safety
Loss of health
Divorce, separation, breakup
Loss of financial security
Loss of career
Loss of identity
In fact, there are over 40 life losses that can cause grief - leaving us feeling devastated, heartbroken, lost, hopeless and ultimately causing the same emotional and physical symptoms of grief.
Here's the definition of greif that we use to illustrate how it can impact many areas of our lives:
“Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behaviour.”
A recent report entitled 'Grief in the Workplace' published by charity, Sue Ryder notes: "There is much more that can be done when it comes to improving our approach to grief.”
We get it, you've got a business to run, or a team to manage, and project deadlines that must be met. With this in mind, we have compiled 5 tips to help you as an employer to effectively support your most valuable asset, your staff.
1. Everyone's grief is unique
Drawing comparisons and expecting employees to respond and recover all in the same way will not be helpful. Just as everyone's relationships are unique, so are our loss experiences - or the relationship we have with a loss experience - as individuals.
Acknowledging grief is unique to the individual is a great starting point for providing the right support for employees, enabling them to work through their conflicting feelings at the same time as recognising their individuality.
2. Avoid a logical approach
Feeling bad or upset after a loss event is the natural human response to an unwanted change in our lives. It does not mean there is anything wrong with us. A logical approach to resolving this grieving experience might be to 'keep busy' and 'replace the loss'.
However, all this achieves is burying unaddressed feelings that will bubble up down the line, potentially having a negative impact on personal productivity and working relationships. Real strength is being able to communicate feelings, not to bury them.
3. Practice empathy
It's worth mentioning again; everyone's reaction to loss is unique. Resist using well intentioned phrases such as, 'I know how you feel,’ or talking about your own grief experience.
Instead, practice good listening skills and be prepared for emotionally uncomfortable conversations. Keep in mind that grievers need to be heard without judgement, comparison, criticism, or analysis, rather than being 'fixed.’
4. Good communication
Effective communication will be key to supporting your team members as they adjust to their new normal. Grieving in isolation is one of the myths we adopt as a way to deal with loss.
Employers that take an open, honest approach to grief will make a huge difference in terms of company morale, well being, positivity, productivity and dedication.
5. Emotional resilience
The idea that time heals emotional wounds is based on another myth, it's what we do with the time that makes the difference.
Emotional resilience is fast becoming one of the most sought-after soft skills for employees, as it enables them to:
Acknowledge conflicting feelings in a healthy way
Have a greater awareness of how unresolved emotions impacts their behaviour
Learn recovery action steps to address negative thoughts and emotions before they adversely impact their productivity
We can help. You can download our free guides How to comfort a bereaved colleague and Simple steps for colleagues to support each other.
Emotional Resilience Training
Using the Grief Recovery Method, we help Management, HR staff and employees learn about the myths of grief and how to develop an emotional resilience skill set to work through their loss events.
The evidence based Grief Recovery programme has been used to help grievers all over the world for over 40 years. We can also focus on specific issues that are relevant to your organisation's unique needs. Including:
One Day Workshops
We can help you create a culture that is supportive to those who are grieving - or are struggling to manage their loss events due to the pandemic.
When you invest in staff well being, everyone benefits.
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