The importance of an integrated bereavement strategy for businesses
Prior to the pandemic, 1 in 10 employees at any time are likely to be affected by bereavement, so, with this rising in 2020, how can employers offer support to team members returning to the office, or working remotely?
Now is the time for businesses to respond proactively to acknowledging bereavement in the workplace, go one step further in reaching out to those not in the workplace, implement innovative and caring active policies and procedures, plan for professional training, and establish a compassionate, caring and supportive environment where grief and grieving are acceptable.
Bereavement Guidelines for Policy & Procedures
Acknowledge that employees will be touched by grief in some capacity as result of the pandemic. Be aware of the types and scale of death, and the impact social distancing measures have had on families grief. Address the situation and make it known that your organisation is empathetic and supportive, and encourage open conversations.
If a team member has been bereaved, ensure respectful and timely discussions have taken place before return, on return and going forward. Sometimes the circumstances around a death can be personal, so check with the staff member what they are comfortable sharing.
Ensure professional counselling is available for your team.. Consider different support organisations to signpost to that would suit the needs of your staff members. Offer helpline numbers that can offer advice. Grief Encounter’s free and confidential helpline, grieftalk, is open 9am – 9pm weekdays on 0808 802 0111.
‘It’s okay not to be okay’. Grief does not have a finite end; be flexible, considerate and understanding with their workload, and shift patterns. Let them know you understand that grief isn’t over in any set time.
It is always better to acknowledge the death rather than ignore it; encourage colleagues to talk with the staff member, and not shut down any conversations. Have regular catch ups. Be sensitive to milestones including date of death, birthdays and anniversaries, and any time off that is needed.
Training Line Managers or upskilling mental health champions within the organisation in best practice bereavement support, can give confidence to support reports to the best of their ability.
Spotting the Signs
With a high percentage of staff still working remotely, how do we spot the signs that they are not coping with their grief? Training staff will help them spot signals such as:
- Taking longer to respond to emails or answer the phone
- Turning off video when speaking to team members
- Declining invitations to team meetings
- Unusual or no reply to emails or text messages
More than ever, it is imperative we create a workplace culture that openly talks about death and grief, supporting one another and recognising the impact that death has and continues to have on the mental wellbeing of employees.
Dr Shelley Gilbert MBE
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