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Guidelines for Workplace Loss


These Guidelines for Workplace Loss were developed by Hospice Yukon for our Loss, Grief and Healing Workshops for managers. They provide a template to turn to when losses occur in the workplace.


The foundation of the guidelines is in creating a compassionate workplace that supports all losses as they arise. The circle model demonstrates how this foundation is essential to responding to both the crisis of sudden death and the losses from long term illnesses.

Guidelines Model for Loss in the Workplace

Guidelines for Workplace Loss - Master list 1

Foundation – The Compassionate Workplace

Choose items appropriate for individual workplaces and situations


  • Institute “compassion” as a workplace value and live it at all levels (hierarchically, internally, externally)

  • Allow reasonable time at work for conversation in time of grief

  • Identify and train “workplace compassion team” or “wellness team” as avenue to create compassionate workplace - institute relationship and team building as part of culture

  • Be open to and respectful of individual definitions of “grief” (e.g. to some, the death of a pet is devastating)

  • Be open to and respectful of individual coping mechanisms for grief (e.g. for some, work is integral to dealing with loss)

  • Deputy Ministers/ADMs/ Managers/ Supervisors given training as well as the flexibility to deal with individual situations

  • Add “Loss and Grief” workshops to Leadership Development programs

  • Determine scope of flexibility in advance through brainstorming potential scenarios as a management team

  • Understand the broad scope of collective agreement provisions, programs and supports available. Have a list available in writing and communicated (e.g. on bulletin boards, in HR, etc.)

  • Understand the scope of community services available (e.g. Hospice Yukon)

  • Develop general confidentiality protocols and mechanisms for communications for each situation

  • Integrate the use of the language of compassion in the workplace (empathy, sympathy, easing suffering, etc.)

  • Staff workshops on the difference between “equal treatment” (treating everyone the same) and “equitable treatment” (treating each individual situation fairly)




Guidelines for Workplace Loss - Master list 2

Crises - Sudden Death Due to Accident or Illness

Refer to master list 1 - choose items appropriate for individual situations


  • Make the office a safe space where staff feel welcomed to come together to grieve and support one another

  • Upon notification of death (may need to confirm with RCMP) bring together support team: Manager, HR rep, staff member

  • Have in place peer support for supervisors to help deal with crises

  • Pull into safe place employees most effected by the loss, tell them 1st (may involve bringing in RCMP)

    • Consider supporting smaller groups rather than one large group

  • Close office if possible

    • Contact other offices and invite them to join

  • Put signs up

  • Give staff the option to stay or leave

    • If people want to stay offer tasks

    • New employees who are not as impacted by loss may agree to fill in for time sensitive work

    • Borrow from another department.

    • Close office for funeral, meet at work and go to service together

  • Cancel meetings

  • All phones forwarded to one location

  • Respond to all emails personally – including those sent to “group”

  • Create contact list of who needs to know

    • Call all offices

    • Consider “telephone tree”

    • If death occurs at work know who needs to be notified

  • Call family (offer assistance)

    • Invite family into office

    • Flowers and meals for family

    • Stay in touch (offer to assist with funeral service)

  • Create a mourning space: photos, flowers, mementos

  • Pass around memory book for family

  • Discretionary funds available? – find out before

    • Flowers for office

    • Pull together pictures

    • Light candles

    • Coffee / food for staff

  • Do not rearrange deceased office – except with her staff

    • Instead bring in pictures and flowers as memorial

  • Offer counselling options

    • EAP

    • Hospice - Grieving handouts

  • Talk to board members with plan

  • Allow staff as much control over their priorities as possible

  • Encourage use of vacation time and mental health days and reduce overtime

  • Permit those returning from a leave to gradually build up to a full-time schedule

  • Buddy system” for re-entry

  • Ad in paper

  • Gather info for family

    • From HR and insurance people:

    • Death benefits

    • Insurance, holiday pay accrued, etc.

    • Sample of deceased’s work for family

  • Create memorials:

    • Garden

    • Food bank

    • Web site

    • Include in annual report

    • Establish memorial fund

    • Fundraising for family

    • Acknowledge anniversaries

  • Offer support to bereaved staff members more than once

    • It is never too late to acknowledge loss


How soon & how well people experience “re entry” is directly related to the relationship with their workplace.



Guidelines for Workplace Loss - Master list 3

Long Term - Living with Serious or Life Threatening Illness

Refer to master lists 1 & 2 - choose items appropriate to the situation


  • Pull together a team to assess situation and address different needs: psycho-social, job related, practical support for employee and family

  • Make sure staff knows who these designated leaders are

  • Communication liaison – information coming in and going out of office

    • To be informed by family when death has occurred

    • Respect confidentiality – assess need to know

  • Identify needs on a timeline: immediate, one week, one month, six months

  • Job - Consider alternative work arrangements

    • borrowing from another department

    • finding less stressful jobs, if employee is able to work.

    • consider flexible hours / job sharing / working at home

    • Explore leave options & pay options

  • Supporting family builds community - give staff the opportunity to:

    • make meals

    • help with driving

    • errands and shopping

    • household maintenance

  • Fundraising

    • Include family

  • Be aware of “survivor exhaustion”

 

 

 

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