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The cost of dying: Supporting employees through grief, despair and moving on



The situation isn’t just stressful for the employees who’re grieving, it’s unknown waters for managers too. According to data from NCPC, 31% of employers would welcome some help on how to support bereaved employees – especially when it comes to making the first move.

“What we found when we began our focus groups is that people are scared to talk about death,” says Lisa Cooper, co-founder of Workplace Healing. “They’re scared that if they bring up the name of Mindy’s son Reat, that many will remember that Reat was murdered when he was 14. Well, Mindy is never going to forget that. Just as I’m never going to forget that my parents have passed away – and when I tell stories about them, when I share stories, it makes me smile.

“Most people in our society, especially in the United States, are scared to talk about death. It makes them feel uncomfortable. As such, we’re raising the level of grief awareness in the workplace, so that people feel supported and cared about by their teams.”

Empathy isn’t a box-ticking exercise for employers, it should emanate into your entire culture – especially in the current talent crisis. According to BusinessSolver’s 2021 ‘State of Workplace Empathy’ annual study, 92% of employees say they’re more likely to stay with an empathetic employer, with 84% of CEOs believing that a company’s financial performance is tied to empathy in the workplace. What’s more, almost 75% of employees are willing to work longer hours for an empathetic employer.

“The impact of grief in the workplace can occur at the individual, department, and organizational levels,” says Manjak. “It’s common to see higher levels of absenteeism – while out of the workplace – or even presenteeism upon return to the workplace. The employer can provide support to those grieving by offering time off and support networks.

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