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Coping with grief and loss in the workplace

Published by: Patrick Williams,


Employee assistance tools can be especially helpful in times of crisis. Whether you or a colleague are experiencing grief or loss or coping with an unexpected event such as a natural disaster or other traumatic event, professionally trained consultants are available to provide help.

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a crucial support system that takes the form of a confidential service offering help with personal and work-related issues; and is provided as a benefit by an employer. The EAP can connect you with resources to assist with emotional concerns such as stress and depression, as well as financial and legal matters and other issues that may occur during or following a crisis. A typical EAP is free and confidential and consultants are available to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

But it’s important to remember that an EAP is only a part of what should be viewed as a total well-being solution.

The World Health Organization defines ‘health’ as “the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of diseases or infirmity.” We believe financial wellness is the fourth pillar of health and all four aspects: physical, mental, social and financial are heavily interlinked and reliant on each other. Therefore, the most effective way to influence a person’s health is by attending to all four aspects of wellbeing simultaneously.

Unfortunately, many businesses have built their employee well-being initiatives piecemeal over the years and as a result have a very siloed approach to offering support to their people. This is far from optimal as it results in multiple logins to multiple systems that are not integrated. This can be very confusing and frustrating for employees, and very difficult for HR professionals to promote internally as well as to deduce usage and analyze any returns on their investment.

LifeWorks is pioneering the concept of ‘total well-being’ with a technology-driven platform that serves employees personalized, bite-size content on a daily basis, meeting and supporting them wherever they are on their well-being journey.

If you consider that an employee dealing with grief in the workplace may well find their mental and social wellness impacted, this could in turn have repercussions on their financial and physical wellness. Perhaps they overspend as a coping mechanism or lose the motivation to exercise. A unified total well-being platform allows the employer to support all four aspects of well-being simultaneously, encouraging the person to process their grief in a natural, healthy way, while maintaining and developing positive habits in other aspects of their lives.

At LifeWorks we do this by supporting the person with relevant content in the form of articles, audio and video, as well as motivational coaching and social engagement. All of which is underpinned by more traditional counselling support via the EAP.

As a business, the key to dealing with grief in the workplace is balancing human needs and the needs of the organization. A workplace death can be especially challenging for a manager, as they are helping others cope with a situation that they are also dealing with on a personal level. Showing that you care about your staff can sustain your team during difficult times, help your employees recover more quickly and increase your employees’ long-term loyalty to your company.

So, understand that when someone on your staff dies or faces a significant crisis, it’s important to respond quickly. If you do nothing, you will appear insensitive to the concerns of your staff. Grief always poses a challenge for managers, especially in the case of a death. Every death is unique, and there are no easy solutions when you lose a member of your team or when an employee loses a parent, child or spouse. Listening to your staff members – and acknowledging their loss – will help you respond in the best way for your employees and your organisation.

During such times of crisis, it’s important to take care of yourself and the people you love, and to realise that you do not need to soldier on alone. A unified total well-being solution is a valuable resource that provides guidance and assistance, support and information and can make you and your employees feel loved.

Make your employees feel loved