Grief after the death of a loved one inevitably follows people to work, where employers and coworkers often are unprepared to handle the immediate sorrow or the surges of pain that ambush mourners at milestones like birthdays and holidays.
Experts say employers should not expect grief-stricken employees to function normally when they return to work, as their concentration is shot, their minds are disorganized and they may be prone to making mistakes. Some employees will need additional support for a month or two once they’re back on the job, such as flexible work schedules, more breaks, adjusted expectations and someone to catch errors, with the assurance that their performance reviews won’t suffer.
The workplace has become increasingly important as a source of support as community traditions that used to surround people in mourning have been cut short amid a social expectation to get back to life as usual.
ComPsych, a Chicago-based provider of employee assistance programs, has seen a steady increase in crisis counseling calls about bereavement, likely because employers have become more aware of the need for mental health support, the company said. Employees over 60 are the most likely of all age groups to seek bereavement help, the company’s data shows.