What Companies Can Do to Support Employees Who’ve Lost a Loved One to Drugs

Unfortunately, despite improved accessibility to overdose-reversal medication, the number of overdose deaths in the United States, particularly from prescription drugs or heroin, have skyrocketed in the last several years.

Losing a loved one is always difficult, but losing a love done to drugs may be even more so.  What can companies do to support employees who’ve lost a loved one to drugs?

Bereavement 101

Compassion matters.  In this era of high job turnover, where employee engagement can greatly enhance your bottom line, demonstrating your loyalty to your staff can translate into their job satisfaction and employment longevity.

Not that compassion is about your fiscal reward, but in the case as an employer, you have concerns about giving staff bereavement, consider these points:

  • Paid bereavement can be specific, with more bereavement time for an immediate family member than an extended family member.
  • Paid bereavement can aide recovery, with an employee getting the time and space needed to return to work less distracted.
  • It does cost you for an employee to be gone, and it may impact business operations, but caring for employees costs less in the long-run.

You may also be able to recommend bereavement support groups or other resources for employees.  It helps if you have done the research in advance of what support and services are available, either in your area or remotely through internet resources.  There are specific support groups for many different kinds of bereavement, based on the way that an individual was lost (such as because of an overdose) or the relationship to the deceased (such as for those parents unfortunate enough to lose a child).  Support groups may be able to provide the kind of care and insight that as an employer you are not necessarily equipped to do.

It’s also important to understand the difference between sympathy and empathy.  Compassion and caring can make a big difference for an employee in a terrible situation.  Understanding is valuable.  Sympathy, or crying alongside them, can seem emotionally forceful or unnatural.  If you are not sure how to provide support, it’s okay to say that.  You can also enlist your team: perhaps coworkers can help with such things as providing meals or companionship, voluntarily, during a period of bereavement.

You do not want to fall into the pitfall of saying nothing at all, just because expressing empathy for such a loss can be awkward.  Be empathetic and honest in your care and concern.

Learning from Loss

As anyone who has been through a terrible loss can say: sometimes you learn important preparation lessons for the future, when you go through a loss like the overdose of a loved one.

Here are three key points that may enhance the lives of your employees:

  1. Cross-train: Perhaps it sounds silly and menial, but when an employee must take leave you often discover where you have not adequately cross-trained. Protect your business operations by ensuring that everyone has someone who could cover for them.
  2. Listen: Having an “open door” policy and a work culture of understanding before a major loss occurs, can make it easier for your entire team to work through such a situation.
  3. Resource: As “the boss” or entrepreneur, you can feel like a lone wolf. Create a team of support, with others you can ask for assistance when difficult work situations arise.

Have you successfully navigated a difficult situation, such as an employee losing a loved one to drugs?  Share your ideas in the comments below and help others just like you!

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