Coping with Loss in a Virtual Working Environment

26 June 2020

Trigger warning: sensitive content, discussion of grief

Any form of loss can cause grief. People respond to loss in different ways; stages of grief during this time may include; denial (feeling shocked, numbness and disbelieve), anger, bargaining and guilt (saying “if only,” or questioning things), depression and acceptance but they can change all the time.

Grieving is a highly individual experience; there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. How a person grieves depends on many factors, including their personality and coping style, life experience, faith, and how significant the loss was to them.

Dealing with loss and grief is an unpredictable thing and even more so when the rest of the world also feels unpredictable. With teams now working remotely dealing with loss or grief adds to the already difficult experience for many. In times like this where it may not be possible to meet up to support each other in person, it is even more important to consider how we, individually and as a business, handle loss or grief that someone may be experiencing. 

How do I support a member of my team coping with loss?

  • Connect and communicate – whatever the communication method may be, get in touch. Remember picking up the phone can go a long way. Encourage the person to talk, however don’t be alarmed if the person doesn’t want to talk. Simply listening will be appreciated.  

Your team may look to you for guidance, support and reassurance, in particular if it is in relation to an organisational change. Have an ‘open door’ policy and make it clear you are available. If you have to deliver difficult news be transparent, honest and empathetic.

  • Be compassionate – acknowledge the loss and make sure they know you are there for them. Try and create an environment in which the bereaved person can be themselves and show their feelings. Be flexible and think about the time off someone might require and how you can accommodate that and if paid/unpaid. Watch for any warning signs for example if the individual starts working long hours, as it could be a means of denial or needing support.  
  • Allow for time and space – inevitably, the grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually. It is important to give someone time and space to grieve. Accept that everyone grieves in their own way, there is no ‘normal’ way, it can also impact people in different way, some people demonstrate behaviours that may be ‘out of character’. If their behaviour becomes unacceptable, it is important this is addressed with them sensitively. This will be especially the case if the loss has led to team members reassessing their commitment to the organization, which may in turn affect their morale and could impact on their colleagues.
  • Offer help: whether it is referring to sources of support (some suggested below) or offering useful specific practical help, make sure they know they are not alone – support is available.

Don’t underestimate how emotionally draining it can be when supporting a grieving person. Make sure you take care of yourself too.

As a reminder, for further support or guidance contact the Broker Network HR Consultancy team on:

Sources of Support

There are a number of different organisations offering support for different types of bereavement, including:

Suicide Prevention and Support Guide (BUPA):

Bereavement Advice and Support (NHS):

Cruse Bereavement Care0808 808 1677

Offers face-to-face, telephone, email and online support for anyone who has experienced a loss.

BEAD (Bereaved through Alcohol and Drugs) – provides information and support for anyone bereaved through drug or alcohol use.

Child Bereavement UK – 0800 02 888 40

Provides support for anyone who has lost a child, and for children themselves who are bereaved.

Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity (SANDS) – 0808 164 3332 

Provides information and support for anybody affected by the death of a baby.

The Compassionate Friends – 0345 123 2304

Offers a range of services supporting bereaved parents and their families.

Sudden Death – 0800 121 6510

Supporting people who have experienced sudden bereavement including during Covid-19.

Widowed and Young – offers support to people under 50 who have lost a partner.

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) – 0300 111 5065

Support for people who have been bereaved by suicide including practical resources.

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