Employee Engagement, Featured

How to Help Employees Handle Grief in the Office


It seems impossible in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria that our nation could handle any more bad news. But here we are again, and our hearts are breaking for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting and their loved ones.

Most of us came into work today because we had to. Our heads down, we tackled our task lists, our meetings – the unyielding clockwork of our daily grinds. But we’re shocked by the violence, and in the back of our heads we’ve been spinning all day on our sadness.

In the face of a national tragedy like the ones we’ve experienced this past month, it’s difficult to know what to do with our grief when we’re at work. It’s even more difficult when those tragedies affect us on a personal level.

Which is why, as an employer, it’s so important to know some practical ways you can help your employees handle their grief in the office. Here are six of them:

1.) Say something

Acknowledging the terrible news by giving it a name and bearing it witness is the first thing employers should do. A company-wide email with words of comfort can go a long way and help people who might not have seen the news that morning understand what has happened.

2.) Foster safe spaces for people to talk about it

If people are gathering in the kitchen or other communal spaces more frequently and for longer the day after a tragedy, embrace it. Talking helps people process their feelings and find comfort in the connection with and support of their coworkers.

3.) Provide opportunities for action

Whether it’s volunteering, donating money or food, or giving blood, most people just want to know if there’s something they can do to help after tragedy strikes. Help them help others by providing opportunities for action – like United Airlines, who teamed up with disaster relief organizations to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

4.) Make managers and HR staff available

Managers and HR staff are important resources in the aftermath of a national tragedy because they are naturally the ones people turn to when they need someone to listen. So supporting managers and HR to free up time in their day to be available is important.

5.) Expect less work to get done (and be okay with it)

Your employees will feel unsettled, sad, and unsure in the wake of a national tragedy. Although routine is hard to resist, there will be a necessary, but temporary, decline in your people’s productivity. Expect it and be okay with it. It’s one way to help employees handle their grief.

6.) Remind employees of your company’s resources

Some people might not want to discuss their feelings with their coworkers, but are suffering all the same. Gently reminding them of the resources your company offers might just help them get the support they need. Whether it’s grief counseling, an employee assistance program, or some other external, community-based program, sharing what’s available can help.

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