Grief is one of the most common factors potentially affecting employees’ performance at work. Estimates show that 1 in 4 employees is grieving at any given time, with an estimated 30 workdays lost each year by workers going through loss without the support of their employer.
Many employees report feeling pressured to come back before feeling ready, not having enough leave time, or lacking support from their employers. Supporting grieving employees benefits individual productivity, reduces staff turnover and boosts the organization’s wellness.
How to Support a Grieving Employee:
Losing a pregnancy or a baby has a lot of emotional implications and it is essential to recognize how grief impacts your staff. Some common traits in grief are anxiety, irritability, decreased energy, sensitivity, poor memory, difficulty with concentration, loss of confidence, among others. Another thing to keep in mind is that the grief from pregnancy and infant loss isn’t limited to gender. Birthing and non-birthing persons experience a significant loss and will struggle to come back to their jobs after that event.
There are some things that can be done to show support for persons who have experienced loss and are returning to work. Making the work environment as conducive as possible to their journey post-loss could help them ease back into work better.
Consider the following suggestions:
- Gift them a bereavement box. PILSC partners with businesses that donate part of the proceeds to support families facing pregnancy and infant loss. Shop here.
- Stay in contact. Find out what they need and how you could contribute to their well-being.
- Ask the employee how much they want their colleagues to know about and respect their wishes.
- Be sensitive to the circumstances around the loss and the possible trauma experienced.
- Provide information about bereavement leave, short-term disability, employee assistance program and other options for paid and unpaid time off available for them.
- Be flexible with times and accommodations.
- Consider letting a bereaved parent know in advance of returning to work if anyone else has become pregnant as this can be helpful.
- Offer the option of a casual visit before the return to work date to give them the opportunity to talk to other coworkers without a lot of pressure.
- Have a long-term absence plan in case it is needed.
- Understand that due dates and other dates can impact your employee’s mental health. Give them permission to take certain dates off work as needed.
- Lead from the heart.
Preparing your Colleagues
Consider preparing colleagues as well for when the grieving person returns to work. You can try out these suggestions:
- Let the staff know what the grieving employee has allowed you to share.
- Reassure your employees that it is natural not to know what to say and sometimes admitting just that may be comforting for the grieving parent. The smallest gesture of empathy means a lot.
- Educate staff on avoiding inappropriate comments such as “you can always have another baby,” “you will have an angel in heaven,” or “at least you have other children,”.
- Keep an eye out for signs of tension and stress that may arise on those who are facing an increased workload due to the absence of the bereaved employee. The loss of a pregnancy or a baby can cause distress to coworkers and those who may be pregnant at the time or have children of their own may be more vulnerable.
- Consider booking a workshop through PILSC to facilitate these conversations and better equip your team.
It is essential to be aware that some employees may return to work before they are ready, hoping that being busy helps them cope with their grief. Do not assume that an employee is over their grief because they are not talking about it. Support is the most helpful thing you can offer, not advice. Direct them to great information and resources to help them ease into their new reality at the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Centre website. Many of our services are available remotely and free of charge.
We’re here to support you and your grieving employee!
Sources: Child Bereavement UK (2021), Human Resources Director (2021).