Traditional Bereavement Leave
On average, four days are allotted for the death of a spouse or child, according to the Society for Human Resource Management 2016 Paid Leave in the Workplace Survey. As stated by SHRM, even less time is given for the loss of a parent, grandparent, domestic partner, sibling, grandchild, foster child, or extended family members. Many companies give no time off for the loss of a friend or colleague.
The Effects of Grief and Loss
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg faced loss first hand, which led her to change the way she thought about dealing with loss in the workplace. She ended up co-writing Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy with Wharton professor Adam Grant. Sandbery explains when employees return to work after only a few short days to recover, the overwhelming grief “can interfere with their job performance.” This affects both the employee and the organization. “In the United States alone, grief-related losses in productivity may cost companies as much as $75 billion annually.” In Option B, Sandbery writes that by offering employees more time to deal with their grief, either through longer bereavement leave, reduced hours or flexible schedules, organizations could wind up saving more in the long run. Not just in monetary terms, either. Employees will remember how employer’s handled this crucial situation and it will have a positive impact on retention and loyalty.
Emotional and Financial Support
“You have to look at the individual response and know that no two will be alike,” says Kessler, who is also founder of Grief.com, a website that provides information, resources and support to grieving individuals. All employees handle grief and loss differently, but what is important it that you support them emotionally. You can do this by not trying to relate to their situation. Instead, send flowers, make a donation in the memory of their loved one, or even attend the funeral. Loss in the family can be difficult financially, as well. If an organization can’t cover as much paid leave as an employee needs, there are other creative ways to assisting. If the grief is profound, employees can be encouraged to get a note from his or her doctor saying additional time off is needed. Employees can also be informed about applying for an Employee Assistance Fund (EAF). An even more creative way is asking employees if they would like to donate a day or two of their vacation time. This can really add up and help out a fellow employee when they need it most.
More information from SHRM on supporting employees through grief and loss, click here.