It’s been estimated that nearly 120,000 UAE workers are dealing with grief after losing a loved one at any given time. Many of these workers are expats from other countries, separated from the love and support of their families. COVID has added an even deeper dimension to this loss due to travel restrictions keeping people from visiting their families or attending funerals.

Grief also comes in other forms beyond loss due to death. Summer depression is a common, seasonal ailment that can take on the form of grief. COVID has also added to the symptoms of this type of depression due to increased isolation from loved ones abroad. Summer depression can result in mood imbalances, insomnia and changes in appetite, all of which can contribute to deeper issues if left unattended.

Because there is no official policy on managing grieving employees, it is the responsibility of individual companies to make their own decisions about how to handle this sensitive subject.

Mishandling grief in the workplace will have an impact on morale, employee health and, ultimately, retention. So, it is important for managers to educate themselves. Develop a plan for how to address grief when the time comes.


Acknowledge that grief exists in the workplace

Your employees don’t stop being human once they walk into the workplace. They can’t switch off their internal processes at will. It’s important to acknowledge and accept that what affects them in their personal lives, affects them at work.

Leaders also need to acknowledge their own humanity during times of grief. You should be as generous to yourself as you are to your employees. Refusing to manage grief can only result in unnecessary stress leading to mental health issues and possibly even physical health issues.


Train in emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence means being able and willing to address uncomfortable subjects. Being in tune with the symptoms of grief in the workplace. Recognise the cultural differences in how grief is addressed by different members of your workforce. These are key factors in being an emotionally intelligent leader.

You can share this training with your employees to increase everyone’s coping skills and improve relationships and morale in your company.


Don’t ignore grief

This goes along with emotional intelligence. But it’s essential not only to acknowledge grief, but also provide a safe space for your employee to talk. This means being courageous enough to directly address the specific loss to the specific employee.

Don’t simply say, “Is everything okay?” Instead, name the person who died and ask what you can do to support the grieving employee.


Remember that grief doesn’t have a timeline

While mourning typically ends within a certain timeframe, grief can come and go. It can be triggered at inopportune times that may even surprise the grieving person.

Be patient with employees and continue to offer them support when you notice symptoms of grief arising.


Create an in-house support group, policy or tradition

Allow your employees to give feedback on what will best serve them. In the case of shared grief, a support group may be beneficial. Organisations like Lighthouse Arabia can guide you in setting one up. Or perhaps they would like to establish a charity, in line with the UAE regulations, in honor of the one they lost.

As a leader, you don’t have to come up with everything on your own. Your employees are a well of ideas and opinions that you can draw from to boost morale in the workplace. Use their voices when drafting or updating your HR policies.


Offer access to a mental health support service

If feasible, consider having the company provide access to one of the many great mental health support services in the UAE.

Employees will feel supported and cared for if you provide them with the resources they need to heal from their loss. This is especially true of expats who are often isolated from their core support systems.

Ultimately, grief is just one of the many human processes that leaders and HR will need to address. As long as you have employees, your company will be affected by their personal lives and experiences.

It’s best to take a proactive and compassionate approach to grief. Provide your employees with the best possible experience working for your company, even under difficult circumstances. To give your company the best possible results from its employees, show that you care and mean it!

OLAM Group is your outsourced HR company. We are your dedicated HR team. Whether you want a la carte options or a full partnership, we can cover any gaps in your HR services.

Contact us here to set up a call and discuss your company’s needs.