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Dealing with bereavement in the workplace

Dealing with bereavement in the workplace can be difficult; when you’re experiencing such high emotions, the office can be the last place you want to be. At any time, one in 10 people in the UK is likely to be affected by a bereavement. It’s important that employees receive the help and support they need to get through this challenging time.

bereavement in the workplace

So, what can employers do to ensure they’re supporting staff the best they can? Here are some of the ways you can deal with bereavement in the workplace as told by Beyond.

Recognise the stages of grief

Kübler-Ross & Kessler describe five stages of grief from denial and anger, to bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is important that employers understand and recognise these five stages, but also respond with compassion. Everyone reacts differently, and changes in personality are often apparent during the grieving process. You may find the individual acting out of character, but it is important not to judge.

Support the individual returning to work

It’s important to understand that returning to work doesn’t necessarily mean business as usual. Feelings can’t be switched off overnight, and there should be the necessary support in place to ensure the individual is able to cope with workload and expectation. We all grieve at different speeds, be patient and understand that not everyone will be able to work to the previous level straight away.

Create a safe space

Create a safe space where the individual feels comfortable to express emotion and confide in a superior. Bottling up emotion can have a detrimental effect, so making sure there is a breakout area for employees to use when necessary can make a big difference. Talk to them, reassure them and offer to help with the not-so-nice tasks e.g. where to find a funeral director. Just having a space that’s away from the desk and intense work environment can also offer a few needed home comforts.

Offer flexible working

If the employee is struggling to adjust to routine, it might be worth discussing a new flexible working arrangement. Working from home just one or two days a week could make a big difference, and shows that you have your employee’s best interests at heart. This temporary arrangement can help individuals to ease back into work and relieve some of the pressure in the early stages of the grieving process.

Avoid assigning new tasks

Dealing with grief can consume people’s everyday lives, and assigning new tasks or responsibilities to that individual should be avoided. Speak to the employee, understand how they feel about their current workload and if any changes need to be made in order for them to feel more comfortable with their duties.

Keep it confidential

A bereavement should not be office gossip. Conversations should remain absolutely confidential, and colleagues should only be informed at the individual’s discretion. Chat with your employee and define what they are happy for their colleagues to know and if you can do anything for them to make the work process easier.

More on staff management and how to improve employee wellbeing.

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