How to support employees through a grieving process

'It's hard to tell when shock and grief will hit the hardest'

How to support employees through a grieving process

The impact of natural disasters, such as the bushfires across Australia will have significant long-term effects, according to Marcela Slepica, Clinical Director of AccessEAP.

Slepica added that the feeling of loss can overwhelm people and whilst those who are unaffected resume their daily lives, those who are still recovering have to start adapting to a new normal whilst grieving their loss and trying to rebuild their lives. 

“Returning to work is a major step for those who have been constantly trying to protect their homes and families and while it can be a daunting experience, it can provide a sense of purpose and connection which is essential to recovery.”

The workplace can also provide a sense of community, and communities that support each other through difficult times is key. With that being said, managers should be sensitive with how they deal with staff members who have been affected and are returning to work.  

Slepica offers the following advice as to how managers can continue to support their employees through the grieving process:

Acknowledge that the road to recover will be long
Before welcoming staff back into the workplace, it’s important to know that the grieving process is long and hard and recovery often comes in stages. Managers should think about the levels and types of required support that will be needed at different times, for example grief may be delayed or PTSD may take effect, managers should be prepared for the emotions and how to respond to these emotions and be equipped to tackle these reactions.

Adopt a flexible approach to hours for those affected
It’s hard to tell when shock and grief will hit the hardest, so by adopting flexible working hours, affected staff can rest assured that they won’t be overwhelmed once they return back to the workplace and the work can be drip fed.

Establish an open-door policy
Where possible and appropriate, it would be better to encourage people to communicate their needs, rather than to assume you know what their needs may be. Managers should let their staff know that they always have time to listen to them and help them when they are in need.

Advise those suffering to speak with their confidential EAP service
As a manager, there are times that you can only do so much to support people, so make sure your business has other support networks in place too. An EAP can offer help in person or over the phone, offering coping strategies and counselling for any problems without judgement.

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