Business as Usual: Grief in the Workplace

Most people spend more waking hours at work than at home. The death of a co-worker or loved one can profoundly affect the workplace in a variety of ways. Nearly 8 million people will be directly affected by death this year. More than half will bring their grief experience to work. Millions more will grieve other important losses—relationships, homes or jobs.

For many people, their work environment and co-workers may feel like family or community. When there is loss, the impact on productivity and morale can be significant.

Grief left unattended will result in:

  • Loss of motivation
  • Increased mistakes
  • Absenteeism
  • Anger
  • Depression

When you are grieving, much as you wish, you cannot “turn grief off” when you go to work. It is important to accept your grief, and recognize that you will not always be functioning at 100 percent. Grief is a process that takes time. It is not an event you suddenly “get over.”

Here are some ways to cope with grief at work:

  • Accept your grief. Recognize there are going to be days that are easier than others.
  • Be flexible. When you experience a rough day, you might not accomplish all that you wished. That’s OK.
  • Be gentle with others. Sometimes people feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to say or do. Understand that inappropriate comments are really attempts to offer you support.
  • Take care of yourself. Grief is stressful. Adequate sleep, good nutrition and exercise are ways to build up resistance to stress. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Consult your physician if concerns arise.
  • Seek support. Utilize the support system present in your life: family, friends, clergy, etc. Your workplace may have an employee assistance program to help you. Support groups or counselors may help you cope with your many different feelings and needs.

In a work environment where employees feel supported and valued, grief can produce a positive impact on the work team and its ability to both work and grieve. Team cohesiveness will form and workplace productivity will be maintained.

Click to download and print Business as Usual: Grief in the Workplace article.

Hospice of the Red River Valley has many resources available for the public, on a loan basis, through the resource libraries in each of our offices. Topics include caregiving, terminal illness, dying, death, grief and loss. To view more information about our grief support services, visit the grief support section of our website or call us at (800) 237-4629.