Supporting a grieving employee during COVID-19

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Health Assured team

27 November 2020

According to a recent survey, over half of people (55%) who experienced bereavement during lockdown say that they feel that their loved one’s death has become ‘just a statistic’.


Suffering a bereavement and experiencing grief can be a traumatic experience for anyone under normal circumstances. However, with restrictions put in place on attending funerals, limited contact with family members and extended time spent in isolation, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced additional challenges for grieving individuals.


As an employer, it’s important that you adapt your framework of support for employees who have experienced bereavement during the pandemic. Otherwise, your organisation could be vulnerable to higher absence rates, decreased productivity, and lower retention of your best talent.


With National Grief Awareness Week soon approaching on the 2nd December, we have outlined how to spot the signs of a grieving employee and the best methods of support during these unprecedented and challenging times.


Signs of a grieving employee

People can experience a wide range of emotions after suffering from a loss. It can be an unpredictable time for those suffering, however, there are a few telling signs that you can look out for in your team members who have recently experienced a bereavement.


You may notice that a colleague has recently demonstrated a shift in their mood, a lack of motivation, irrational anger or aggression, regular fatigue, and an inability to make decisions.


Supporting a grieving employee during COVID

Supporting a bereaved employee is a sensitive issue that requires an empathetic and human approach. However, with so many people working remotely, furloughed or in socially distant conditions, it’s hard to communicate with that human touch that grief requires.


Here, we have detailed a few ways on how to support your team members effectively and compassionately after experiencing a bereavement during the COVID-19 pandemic...


Acknowledge: Ensure that you recognise the individuals' feelings and acknowledge their loss. If they’re not ready to talk, let them know that your door is always open and highlight their available support options, such as our EAP helpline.

Education: Employers and managers need to be aware of the impact that bereavement can have on their employees. Consider offering training sessions for managers on the most effective methods of supporting a bereaved individual at work, covering how to communicate effectively and with compassion.

Returning to work: Returning to work after experiencing a bereavement can be an anxiety-inducing transition. Arrange an informal virtual catch-up with the individual before their return and schedule regular check-ins to discuss any reasonable adjustments that they may require, to enable them to feel comfortable in work.

Be patient: After an employee experiences a bereavement, they may struggle to concentrate on tasks and as a result, find it difficult to work to their usual capacity and standard. Managers should remain patient and consider offering flexible working hours or shift patterns to help ease them back into their normal working routine. For example, short breaks staggered throughout the day or allowing more access to their mobile phone to answer calls.



If you would like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on:

UK: 0844 892 2493

ROI: 01 886 0324

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