It is only natural for a person to grieve when they’re faced with personal loss or medical emergency of some sort. The person can be your colleague who you might be acquainted with and might not share the closest of relationships with. But like they say, just being there for someone can sometimes bring hope when all seems hopeless. Also, it is necessary to prevent any further emotional breakdowns that might affect the person’s work-life balance. Preventive healthcare, despite being talked so less of, is one of the most crucial elements that can help you ace your work life.

Here’s how you can help as a manager:

  • Be understanding. Many companies have an HR policy around loss, but if at all possible, be flexible. Each person responds in his or her own way to grief. Treat these situations individually instead of lumping them together.
  • Help them out by distributing their workload amongst each other for the period that they’re unavailable. Create an environment in which work can progress as your colleague moves through their grief. This will set the tone for how a team will respond to helping a fellow co-worker in need—if there is support at the highest level, chances are the team will follow suit.
  • Aimee Barr, a New York City-based psychotherapist says, “Research has shown that structure and keeping busy can often help, but it is crucial to remember grief is a very personal process and can last anywhere from weeks, months, or years.” Be sensitive of that as a manager when a team member comes back to work: Just because they’re back at work doesn’t mean they’re not still grieving. Check with HR for permission to send an email to your team the day before the employee returns reminding them that this person was away due to a loss.

It can be tricky to spot the people who are having a harder-than-average time coping at work.

Here’s how you can help as HR:

  • Mostly the guidelines of your company regarding this matter will already be in place, but still, to ensure the smooth functioning of the company in the absence of the person who is grieving/is absent, allot duties to fellow employees to convey messages to clients about the person’s absence due to a loss, without sharing too many details.
  • Work with the manager and a co-worker to designate a person to check in with the bereaved employee on how they’re doing and inquire about when they might return to work.

Here’s how you can help as co-worker: 

Be a Good Listener. Participate in Team Exercises
  • Plan with your manager on handling the workload over the coming days. If you don’t sit on the same direct team, be supportive in your own ways. This can include working with your manager on sending a card or flowers or even merely just sending an email to your co-worker letting them know they are in your thoughts.
  • Grief is an individualized experience. Try to show your colleague empathy at all times. By doing so, you’ll be helping to create as comfortable an atmosphere as possible during an extremely painful time.

All of these are designed to ensure that you stay at the pick of your health, much like how effective machines are always tended prior to any potential damage to ensure smooth working.

(The Views expressed here are my own and shouldn’t be construed as the views of any of my employers/partners, present or past.)

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