Young woman working at an office with her head in her hands in exasperation

How to Support Employees Grieving at Work

After the death of a close friend or family member, navigating conversations at work can feel overwhelming. There’s no universal road map for how to handle grief in the workplace. Managers have the unique ability to make a difference – to provide empathy and compassion to employees who are experiencing a loss.

Here are some ways managers can help employees who have recently lost someone:

Talk About Workload

Everyone grieves differently. While some people may crave more projects to do as a distraction from their emotions, others may find it difficult to accomplish a full plate of tasks.

Ask your workers how you can help adjust or reprioritize their workload to allow them to heal emotionally. Additionally, some employees may perform better working from home while they are grieving. If your workplace allows it, consider allowing someone who is grieving the ability to temporarily work from home.

Don’t Make Assumptions

It might be easy to assume that someone would feel worse right after losing a loved one or friend, and progressively feel better over time. Grief doesn’t work like that – everyone has their own timeline for processing a loss.

Additionally, if someone has lost a distant cousin, it also might be easy to assume that the loss is less difficult than if someone’s father or mother had died, for example. Relationships in every family are different: don’t apply your own feelings about your family members to others.

Make Them Feel Seen

The workplace can be isolating if everyone avoids you just because you’re grieving. Ask your employees how they prefer to interact with their coworkers during their time of grief, and then communicate that to the rest of your staff. Some people may want privacy, while others may want their colleagues to acknowledge their grief and to talk about the person that they lost. Don’t assume that everyone wants space – but approach the conversation from a place of empathy and care.

Connect Them to Resources

Many companies offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) through their health insurance benefits. Employee assistance programs provide wraparound supports, including mental health services, to the employee and their immediate family.

Professional counseling can help you identify and manage your emotions and give you strategies to cope with your grief. Make sure you’re aware of what your company has to offer your employees and encourage your grieving staff member to take advantage of any available programs.

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