Returning to Work

Returning to work following time off for bereavement may require planning and create additional stress and anxiety for employees and employers alike. During the time away from the workplace, employees are handling and focused on personal matters which are a top priority. However, the professional and business responsibilities of an employee do remain and communication is important. When employees are on bereavement leave, companies and co-workers generally will adjust schedules to help alleviate the burden and stress of additional work on the employee upon the return.

Returning to work can be helpful to employees and often provides stability along with routine. While returning to work can be difficult, for many, work is a part of life that did not include the deceased. Because of that and the busyness of the work day, the workplace can be used to develop a break from the grip of grief.

Before returning to work, some of these suggestions may prove helpful:

  • The long hours and intense emotions of mourning and the demands of the funeral service often wears down an individual’s physical stamina. Before returning to work, care should be given to restore regular eating and sleeping patterns. A good night’s sleep and a healthy meal can be important steps to assure a successful first day back at work.
  • Prior to returning to work, it can be helpful to contact a supervisor or human resource representative about the intentions to work again. Open communication from both the business and the bereaved assures that the transition back to work is smooth and understanding while making sure that the needs of the business are met.
  • Some employees find it helpful to arrange to go into work to meet co-workers for lunch on the day before actually returning to work. This can help the bereaved get past the first encounters and the awkward moments involved in expressing sorrow. It can make going back to the actual work easier.
  • During any time of change or transition, it is important to keep strong lines of communication. Regular meetings between the supervisors and colleagues provide opportunities for the one returning from bereavement to discuss how the transition is progressing.
  •  Many employees find comfort and support from their co-workers, supervisors and even the routine of business when they return to the workplace. When more time for sharing about the grief is needed than brief conversations with co-workers, many companies provide employee assistance programs to provide assistance. Supervisors and human resource experts can provide guidance for accessing the programs or contact information for local off-site assistance organizations.
  • Many employees find that it is difficult to concentrate and retain information while grieving. Distractions and shorter attention spans can lead to mistakes and errors. Employees may want to take special care during the time back from grief to work a little more slowly and to carefully check details twice. Supervisors should be informed if tasks seem especially difficult. If help is needed with projects or deadlines, supervisors can often adjust schedules to help ease the transition.

By planning ahead it should make returning to the workplace and transitioning into a routine a little easier. Healing from the death of a loved one is a slow process, but the routine of work can be an incredibly important step.