GRIEF AND THE WORKPLACE
With the recent news of the passing of Her Majesty the Queen, conversations and personal experiences with grief seem more prevalent than ever. Although grief is an experience we will all face in our lives, it is not a subject that is talked about enough, especially in the workplace. We sat down with our COO- Emi Perez-Fragero, who shared her recent experience of loss and how her grief led to changing our compassionate leave policies at Marble. We hope that in sharing Emi’s experience, we can help open up the conversation and encourage other businesses to reflect on how they support colleagues through grief.
“ At the point I heard dad had gone downhill with Covid, I was about to board a plane for a work trip to NYC. The final conversation we ever had was in the queue at the Virgin Atlantic check in line. I didn’t know then that I would never see or speak to him again. My dad was my business mentor, my guide, my sounding board and most importantly my supporter. Sadly on 1st December 2021 my beloved father died.
I fully recognise I am not the only person who a) who has lost a parent b) runs a business, but my god it felt like I was. My question: How has everyone else managed this?
Before Dad’s death, grief was a stranger to me, an uncomfortable and unfamiliar elephant in the room. It has brought how grief is handled in the workplace to the forefront of my mind. How someone returning to work may be seemingly ok on the outside, but they could be shouting in their head “how can we talk about this, when you know what I have lost?” Grief is an ongoing process, it’s not over within a set amount of days. A study in the Harvard business review says: “On the whole, we found, managers come to work prepared to celebrate births and birthdays, and even to handle illnesses, but when it comes to death, they fall silent and avert their gaze” I’ve got to take my experience of grief and make a positive out of it. We at Marble need to apply more effort around how to help any member of our team should the worst happen, here is how we have begun to do this.
Question your current policies and support
Is your compassionate leave policy in line with what you and your business stands for? Typically, compassionate leave in the UK is 3-5 days long for the loss of an immediate family member, 2-3 days for less close relationships and 1 day for more distant relatives. The issue of outlining criteria for a bereavement leave policy revolves around the fact that grief is subjective and that defining situations that qualify for specific leave entitlements is challenging.
As business owners, ask yourselves:
- Are there spaces allowed for people to talk and educate each other?
- Where best do we direct them too?
- How do you educate others to talk comfortably?
- How do you classify who someone can take compassionate leave for? Often defined as parents, grandparents, siblings and children.
Research and learn
We’ve collated some useful resources for improving your understanding of how to talk about grief which can also help with reviewing compassionate leave policies:
Taking time off
How to talk about grief in the workplace
- When a colleague is grieving- Harvard Business Review
- Understanding grief and how to talk to someone who has been bereaved– Marie Curie
Books and podcasts on grief
- Grief Works by Julia Samuel
- The nuances of grief, with Cariad Lloyd on Doing It Right with Pandora Sykes
- Bereavement Room podcast
- How To Fail: Colin Hehir on How To Fail With Elizabeth Day
- Grief and the workplace with Lizzie Pickering
Perhaps the most important part in the process, implementing tangible action. Here is an overview of some of the policy changes we have recently made at Marble:
- Broadened our policy to include compassionate leave for the death of any person who is meaningful to an employee
- Offering 7 days of additional paid leave so that they can grieve and get the support they need. We do not define “closeness” and we will not ask about their relationship to the person or what they meant to them
- We’ve not placed any limits on when those days can be taken
- We remember that we are all human- and whether you are the boss or in a more junior position, we encourage all to speak to the person, human to human, not the role – grief affects us all
- We let the person decide how many or how few details they want to give their manager and colleagues
At Marble we will be present, be patient and be open.”