Guests: Steve Bullington, Heather Fjelstad, & Grace Erickson

This panel featured three individuals who shared their workplace bereavement experiences and the impact that it has/had on their lives. Their stories highlighted the crucial need for compassionate support, beyond just policy, from employers during times of loss.

We covered a ton in a short amount of time! Here’s the TLDW;
(or you could just hit play!)

Common Experiences and Challenges:
All panelists served as caregivers for their loved ones before experiencing their loss.

They struggled with balancing caregiving duties with professional responsibilities, often feeling isolated and under pressure.

Many lacked guidance and support from their companies during their bereavement periods.

Supportive Responses:
Having a supportive and understanding manager made a significant positive impact.

Flexible leave policies, especially unlimited PTO, provided much-needed flexibility.

Personal gestures from colleagues, such as attending funerals or expressing condolences, were deeply appreciated and memorable.

Clear communication and proactive support from HR or leadership were beneficial, though often missing.

Inadequate Responses:
Limited bereavement leave (e.g., three days) was insufficient and added stress.

Lack of knowledge or support from managers and HR about leave policies created additional challenges.

Employees often had to advocate for themselves, which was difficult during a time of grief.

Returning to work without proper support or acknowledgment from colleagues made the transition harder.

Suggestions for Improvement:
Managers should be knowledgeable about company leave policies and proactive in offering support.

Companies should provide more extensive bereavement leave and consider flexible re-entry plans.

Training for managers on how to handle bereavement situations with empathy and practical support is crucial.

Open conversations about grief and caregiving should be encouraged to foster a supportive workplace culture.

Companies should treat employees as humans, balancing organizational needs with compassionate support.

Final Messages:
Grief is a universal experience; empathetic and flexible company policies can make a significant difference.

Normalizing discussions about grief and caregiving at work can lead to better support systems and a more compassionate workplace environment.

Proactive, human-centered approaches from management and leadership are essential in supporting grieving employees effectively.

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