The first step on the road to creating a grief-friendly work environment is to acknowledge that it’s an issue. The second step is to put policies in place that support the grieving employee. The policy goal should be to create a culture of compassion - what is needed is compassion reform.
Bereavement leave - What is your organization’s bereavement leave policy? A typical bereavement leave allows three days off for the death of an immediate family member. This isn’t enough. A full work week’s leave is much more realistic and enabling for the employee. Easily accessed unpaid leave is another option. Moreover, its important that your bereavement leave policy allow for absences due to deaths outside the immediate family.
Management practices - How do you respond when an employee is affected by death? As with all aspects of corporate culture, management is responsible for modeling the desired behaviour. Set up grief support training sessions for your management team.
Workplace Counselling - Your Employment Assistance Program should be able to help you set up individual counseling for mourners as well as workplace grief groups. Also seek out appropriate referral sources to provide support to your employees, such as hospice bereavement support.
Workplace Education – Employees need to be educated about your new culture of compassion. Ongoing grief education needs to be provided.
Stress Relief – Policies and culture shifts aimed at relieving stress in the workplace will be good for the grieving employee, too. Environmental considerations and wellness programs, such as yoga or meditation, can go a long way towards creating a comfortable, peaceful space in which to work – and grieve.
Flexibility – Above all when it comes to grief at work, encourage flexibility: alternative work arrangements, compressed work weeks, job sharing, telecommuting, and other work-life program initiatives.
Creative Programs - Look into programs that other enlightened employers use to support grieving people and adapt them to your workplace. They are out there!
Adapted from Healing Grief At Work, Alan D. Wolfelt, PH.D 2005