Going back to work too soon after losing a loved one can affect a worker’s productivity, the ability to effectively manage employees, and even the safety of everyone involved. From an HR management perspective, it’s best to give employees the time they need to grieve and allow them to begin to heal before they have to think about the workplace and any stresses associated with it. Not only is it the compassionate thing to do, it will be best for everyone in the long run.
You can help your employee get through this difficult time by offering support, time off, and assistance when they return; read on to find out how employers can help a grieving employee find the resources for peace and comfort after a loss.
In some cases, losing a valuable employee for several weeks or more can be a huge hit to your company’s ability to serve customers efficiently. However, it’s management’s job to make things run smoothly. Talk to your employee about how much paid leave they can take, and whether they’ll be allowed to use unpaid days as well to be with family and grieve after making arrangements. You may need to rearrange the schedule or, for a 9-5 business, call a meeting as soon as possible and let everyone know that there will be some changes. If there just aren’t enough employees to pick up the slack, consider hiring a temp or a contractor. A temp can handle simpler, more administrative tasks while more complicated responsibilities can be delegated to someone more qualified or a contractor.
Find the Best Resources to Support the Loss
If your employee has lost a major figure in their life–a spouse, a parent, or a child–it will probably be necessary for them to have access to counseling and other bereavement resources. Talk to them about the importance of caring for their mental health during this difficult time. Do some research on the best resources in your area if the company doesn’t have any kind of in-house counseling or mental health care program (there are even online bereavement programs), or head here to check out how to find support in your state.
Give Consistent Support
It’s important to provide support once the employee returns to work because going back after a major loss can be a shock to the system. If necessary, make sure there is someone designated to handle clients in their absence so that they won’t return to a mountain of paperwork. There may be days when they just can’t cope, or when the grief hits them hard out of nowhere; keep an eye out for signs that the employee might be having a tough time, and check-in every so often to see how they’re acclimating. Just make sure you don’t hover or imply that they can’t do their job–simply show your genuine concern and offer support.
If possible, consider allowing the employee to work remotely on these days. Being able to work from home can help them find the peace they need to get back on track. If that isn’t possible, ask if they’re interested in reducing their hours for a few weeks to a month, just to give some breathing room.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be a devastating blow, and it can have long-lasting effects. Talk to coworkers about how to be supportive and sensitive during this time; think about both what’s helpful and what’s appropriate. It can be difficult for friends and peers to know how to help, so giving specific jobs or requests–such as helping with a work-related project–will allow them to feel like they’re giving assistance. They will appreciate your compassion and it will support your employee engagement and recruitment branding initiatives. Above all, make sure your employee knows your door is always open if they need support.
Guest blogger Julie Morris is a life and career coach who strives to help others live the best lives that they can. She believes she can relate to clients who feel run over by life because of her own experiences. She spent years in an unfulfilling career in finance before deciding to help people in other ways.