Grieving employees can have a negative impact on the workplace. A study conducted by the Grief Recovery Institute revealed that American companies sustain an estimated $75 billion dollars each year due to absenteeism, lower productivity, turnover, health care and workers’ compensation because of grieving employees.
Times of grief can be especially difficult for employees to manage. Helping people through the process of grief can be formidable. More and more companies are responding to the statistics by providing resources for their employees. While there is no perfect plan, businesses need to have policies – including workplace recovery programs – in place to help employees cope with grief.
Many national organizations can help businesses craft “Grief in the Workplace” educational programs which could include seminars or in-workplace visits. Local resources for the development of such programs may be community centers, counseling offices, hospitals or hospices and religious organizations. The plans can be tailored to the budget of the business. They may include programming for the entire company or for the individuals most impacted by the loss.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) has several programs to help businesses respond to physical and symbolic losses. Their website “Caring Connections” (www.caringinfo.org) has information on how businesses can support the grieving employee, and a survey to determine how caring a business is to those suffering loss. Several of the programs from NHPCO are administered by local Hospice organizations who will come on site to assist the business through the difficult times of grief.
The Dougy Center is a national center for grieving children and families. This organization provides support and training to individuals and organizations to assist children in grief. They provide resources for parents and children, including books, workbooks and videos. The Dougy Center is supported through private donations and foundations and does not charge a fee for its services.
Employee assistance programs (EAP) are crafted by organizations willing to provide services for businesses during times of crisis. The programs are administered by local counseling centers, chambers of commerce, hospitals, educational providers and religious institutions. The organizations partner with the business providing services and counsel, sometimes at reduced rates, for the employees. The services are usually given at the location of the organization.
Chaplain services – either local or national – may provide more personal and flexible planning than the traditional employee assistance programs (EAP). One of the common differences between the two programs is location and availability. EAPs tend to offer services outside the office. Many times the employee has to pursue the EAP on their own time. Chaplains may do the same, but they often visit the workplace, allowing immediate care and assistance.
Chaplains Inc. claims that only 5% of workers take advantage of traditional EAPs while over 55% use chaplaincies. The immediate availability is probably the biggest reason for the difference. While some shy away from chaplains because of their religious connotation, the organization says that faith becomes a part of the discussion only when requested. Their primary purpose is to help deal with grief.
Business needs will be unique and the company’s plan for helping employees recover from grief should reflect that. Offering resources not only helps productivity by helping employees cope with the grief process, it may also reduce turnover because it demonstrates to the employee that they are of value to the company.