Tomorrow (30th August) is Grief Awareness Day and though it’s often a difficult subject to talk about when someone you know experiences a loss, it’s only natural to want to help. Yet, when that person is your employee, it can be difficult to walk the line between your professional and personal instincts.
B&G HR have teamed up with NW Counselling Hub’s co-founder Naomi Watkins who has given us her five tips on navigating through the grieving process in the workplace.
- Take the time to read up on the grieving process, it could help you understand what your employee is going through.
“It helps to understand some of the thoughts and feelings your employees may be going through. As this may well explain a change in behaviour or behaviours you don’t fully recognise in your employee. It is important to note the Grief Cycle by Kubler Ross (see chart here) is a good starting point, but that the cycle is not necessarily in any order and stages can be revisited at any time.”
- Respect your employee’s privacy, don’t give out more details to your workforce than is necessary.
“Sharing the minimum so your other employees can be mindful and respectful is encouraged. Allow your employee to share what they want to, with who they want to, when they feel ready. It might be one of the few things they have control over at this difficult time.”
- Be flexible. Give your employee the time they need, reassign work where needed, offer compassionate leave.
“It is so important employees don’t feel guilty about having time off after a bereavement and compassionate leave needs to be flexible. Ask them what they feel they need, do not assume as everyone is different. They may also need to be mindful of important dates, anniversaries, birthdays etc.”
- Make sure your employee is aware of the services available e.g. grief counselling
“Know what is available in your area, but get a recommendation. Make sure the counsellors are experienced in bereavement, qualified and registered with an appropriate body, like the BACP.”
- Don’t rush employees into returning to work unless they feel it would benefit them. Try, where possible, to run things on their timetable.
“Patience is so important, you cannot put a timescale on grief. Everyone experiences grief in their own way. But check with them what they want to do, they may need routine to begin with to be able to have some stability. Or they may want to change part of their role or workload or have a phased return.”
Employee welfare is an important cornerstone is every business, but each person handles grief in their own way so there’s no definitive way to manage the process. The most important thing to remember is to be respectful and patient. Employees provide immense support to a business and in turn they should feel supported during a difficult time.
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