Anyone who has experienced a profound loss knows how difficult it can be to return to work. Sometimes the grief can feel ever-present, and other times it may sneak up on you. This can make it difficult to focus and function normally with colleagues and clients. If one of your team members is coping with intense sorrow, it can help to know how to handle these emotions in the workplace.

Dustin Keller, Ph.D., vice president of clinical strategy for the Pathways at Work program, says most workplace cultures don’t have a standard for supporting employees in their grief. However, there are steps leaders can take to make the process more manageable.

In this issue of PromoPro Daily, we share some expert advice from Dr. Keller on how leaders can support people in times of sadness.

Offer support and respect privacy. If one of your staff members tells you about a loss, don’t assume they want to share the news with everyone on the team. Privacy during grief is just as important as support, Dr. Keller says. Always ask the employee if they’d like you to inform the team or if they prefer not to share their loss just quite yet.

Shift their workload. When possible, see how you can adjust a grieving employee’s workload to make their return to the office more manageable. Dr. Keller says it’s essential to modify your expectations for grieving employees as it may take them a while to adjust to work. They might find it easier to adjust to a lighter workload in the short term.

Commit to regular check-ins. You might check in with employees on their first day back from bereavement leave, a week after they’ve returned and a month or so after they return to work. One employee may find the first week to be the most challenging, while another may struggle for longer. Grief is different for everyone, Dr. Keller says, so touch base often to see how the employee is coping.

Everyone deals with grief in different ways. After an employee’s bereavement leave or PTO is up, you can help them ease into their return to work by considering the guidance above.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Dustin Keller, Ph.D. is a licensed professional counselor-mental health service provider and national certified counselor who serves as vice president of clinical strategy for the Pathways at Work program.