We know that while many bereaved employees cope reasonably well at work, others struggle to manage their loss. This can impact on their work and their relationships with managers and colleagues. A well planned and managed approach to bereavement at work not only helps bereaved employees to cope better with their loss but also:
- Supports their return to productivity
- Can help reduce absenteeism and sick leave
- Helps avoid unnecessary staff turnover
- Addresses the impact on colleagues and co-workers
- Strengthens corporate culture and team morale
Effective support can help employees who are experiencing grief remain productive while they heal.
Grief Matters conduct staff trainings to improve grief literacy in workplaces. We also provide support to employees with a terminal condition, or who are experiencing grief and bereavement. To contact us, please call Grief Matters Helpline at 8181 0448 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Supervisors and managers can consider the following strategies when supporting staff caring for a family member who is ill.
- Offer Sympathy and support. When employees first bring up their problems relating to the family member who is ill, it is important to exercise sympathy and support to their situation first.
- Get feedback. If there is a likely impact to other employees, arrange for a dialogue session to get feedback from the other employees. Getting others’ views onboard demonstrates that the management respects all employees and their views.
- Explore adjustments. The manager/supervisor needs to be prepared to talk to the employee about options available from the organisation, despite the circumstances of the employee’s problem. Explore options that might be workable in terms of making adjustments to the employee’s situation, while minimising the impact to the organisation.
- Periodic reviews. Have constant periodic reviews on the work situation and work performance. Be prepared for possible changes due to the employee’s family situation.
Having an open communication with your employee to discuss alternative leave plans and work arrangements can provide the support and assurance the employee might need during the time of crisis.
Following the death of a loved one, many employers feel hesitant to ‘intrude’ in the immediate days that follow. However, acknowledgement of the loss, and the offer of support and understanding at this time is very important.
There are a range of things you can do immediately following a death that can be helpful and supportive to employees:
- Send flowers, card or a wreath to offer condolences on behalf of the organisation.
- Call your employee and express your condolences for their loss.
- Reassure them that their workload will be taken care of in their absence.
- Check how they would like to stay in contact.
- Check how much information they would like co-workers to know, and if they wish to be contacted by colleagues.
- Attend the funeral if appropriate. If you are unsure, ask if it would be appropriate to do so.
- Discuss with the employee when it is appropriate to return to work, in accordance with your organisation’s bereavement policy.
Grieving a loss may continue to feel unbearable in the immediate days following the death of a loved one. Given that the current leave policy in Singapore provides for only 3 days of compassionate leave, we can expect that many employees experiencing a bereavement will return to work fairly immediately following their loss of their loved ones.
There are measures employers can take to reassure employees and ensure that their transition back into the work environment is supported, realistic and workable, for example:
- Ask your employee what you can do that will help them get through their first days back.
- Issue an email to staff advising them that their colleague is returning, and to be mindful of being sensitive, supportive and not overloading them.
- Offer them flexibility around their work hours wherever possible.
- Offer a return to work plan, that is gradual and offers flexibility.
- Be realistic in your expectations. Try to put yourself in their shoes.
- Ease them back into their workload, so that it doesn’t become overwhelming.
- Be present and available.
(Adapted from The Compassionate Friends Victoria)
The Australia Centre for Grief and Bereavement has made available the following resource: How to be a Compassionate Employer which can serve as a guide for employers looking to support their employees during bereavement.
While majority of employees are able to cope with their grief and resume work normally, there are times when manifestations of grief do not appear until weeks or months after the death. Because there is not much understanding of this process, this reaction can catch both the individual and the employer by surprise.
- Inability to concentrate
- Lack of interest or motivation
- Impaired decision-making
- Memory gaps
- Uncontrollable crying episodes
- Social withdrawal
- Decreasing productivity
- Decreasing morale
- Chronic fatigue
- Increased stress levels
- High absentee / sickness
If you feel that a bereaved employee may be exhibiting the above signs and may require more support than you or others in the workplace can provide, please feel free to contact Grief Matters at our Helpline: 81810448 or email us at email@example.com